- Is the Pre-Trib Rapture a Satanic Deception? by Thomas
Ice Recently, pre-wrath advocate Marvin Rosenthal wrote that
the pre-trib rapture was of Satanic origin and unheard of before
1830. "To thwart the Lord's warning to His children, in
1830," proclaims Rosenthal, "Satan, the 'father of
lies,' gave to a fifteen-year-old girl named Margaret McDonald
a lengthy vision."
- 1 Rosenthal gives no documentation, he merely asserts that
this is true. However, he is wrong. He is undoubtedly relying
upon the questionable work of Dave MacPherson. Another thing
amazing about Rosenthal's declaration is that a few paragraphs
later in the article he characterizes his opposition as those
who "did not deal with the issues, misrepresented the facts,
or attempted character assassination."
- 2 This description is exactly what he has done in his characterization
of pre-trib rapture origins. Why would Rosenthal make such outlandish
and unsubstantiated charges about the pre-trib rapture?
THE BIG LIE
- One of the things that facilitated the Nazi rise to power
in Germany earlier this century was their propaganda approach
called "The Big Lie." If you told a big enough lie
often enough then the people would come to believe it. This the
Nazis did well. This is what anti-pretribulationists like John
- 3 and Dave MacPherson4 have done over the last 25 years.
Apparently the big lie about the origins of the pre-trib rapture
has penetrated the thinking of Robert Van Kampen
5 and Marvin Rosenthal to the extent that they have adopted
such a falsehood as true. This is amazing in light of the fact
that their own pre-wrath viewpoint is not much more than fifteen
years old itself. Rosenthal must have changed his mind about
pre-trib origins between the time he wrote his book The Pre-wrath
Rapture of the Church (1990) and the recent article (Dec. 1994)
since, in the former, he says that the pre-trib rapture "can
be traced back to John Darby and the Plymouth Brethren in the
- 6 Rosenthal goes on to say, "Some scholars, seeking
to prove error by association, have attempted (perhaps unfairly)
to trace its origin back two years earlier to a charismatic,
visionary woman named Margaret MacDonald."
- 7 Even this statement is in error, since the Margaret Macdonald
claim has always been related to 1830, not 1828. However, Rosenthal
is correct in his original assessment that these charges are
"unfair" and probably spring out of a motive to "prove
error by association," known as the ad hominem argument.
Pretribulationists have sought to defend against "The Big
Lie" through direct interaction against the charges.
- 8 In a rebuttal to these charges I made in 1990, I gave two
major reasons why "The Big Lie" is not true. First,
it is doubtful that Margaret Macdonald's "prophecy"
contains any elements related to the pre-trib rapture.
- 9 Second, no one has ever demonstrated from actual facts
of history that Darby was influenced by Macdonald's "prophecy"
even if it had (which it did not) contained pre-trib elements.
- 10 John Walvoord has said, The whole controversy as aroused
by Dave MacPherson's claims has so little supporting evidence,
despite his careful research, that one wonders how he can write
his book with a straight face. Pretribulationalists should be
indebted to Dave MacPherson for exposing the facts, namely, that
there is no proof that MacDonald or Irving originated the pretribulation
- 11 There is a third reason why MacPherson's theory is wrong,
Darby clearly held to an early form of the pre-trib rapture by
January 1827. This is a full three years before MacPherson's
claim of 1830. DARBY AND THE PRE-TRIB RAPTURE Brethren writer,
Roy A. Huebner claims and documents his belief that J.N. Darby
first began to believe in the pre-trib rapture and develop his
dispensational thinking while convalescing from a riding accident
during December 1826 and January 1827.
- 12 If this is true, then all of the origin-of-the-rapture-conspiracy-theories
fall to the ground in a heap of speculative rubble. Darby would
have at least a three-year jump on any who would have supposedly
influenced his thought, making it impossible for all the "influence"
theories to have any credibility. Huebner provides clarification
and evidence that Darby was not influenced by a fifteen-yea-old
girl (Margaret Macdonald), Lacunza, Edward Irving, or the Irvingites.
These are all said by the detractors of Darby and the pre-trib
rapture to be bridges which led to Darby's thought. Instead,
he demonstrates that Darby's understanding of the pre-trib rapture
was the product of the development of his personal interactive
thought with the text of Scripture as he, his friends, and dispensationalists
have long contended. Darby's pre-trib and dispensational thoughts,
says Huebner, were developed from the following factors: 1) "he
saw from Isaiah 32 that there was a different dispensation coming
. . . that Israel and the Church were distinct."
- 13 2) "During his convalescence JND learned that he
ought daily to expect his Lord's return."
- 14 3) "In 1827 JND understood the fall of the church.
. . 'the ruin of the Church.'"
- 15 4) Darby also was beginning to see a gap of time between
the rapture and the second coming by 1827.
- 16 5) Darby, himself, said in 1857 that he first started
understanding things relating to the pre-trib Rapture "thirty
years ago." "With that fixed point of reference, Jan.
31, 1827," declares Huebner, we can see that Darby "had
already understood those truths upon which the pre-tribulation
- 17 German author Max S. Weremchuk has produced a major new
biography on Darby entitled John Nelson Darby: A Biography.
- 18 He agrees with Huebner's conclusions concerning the matter.
"Having read MacPherson's book . . ." says Weremchuk,
"I find it impossible to make a just comparison between
what Miss MacDonald 'prophesied' and what Darby taught. It appears
that the wish was the father of the idea."
- 19 When reading Darby's earliest published essay on biblical
prophecy (1829), it is clear that while it still has elements
of historicism, it also reflects the fact that for Darby, the
rapture was to be the church's focus and hope.
- 20 Even in this earliest of essays, Darby expounds upon the
rapture as the church's hope.
- 21 SCHOLARS DO NOT ACCEPT THE BIG LIE
- The various "rapture origin" theories espoused
by opponents of pre-tribulationsm are not accepted as historically
valid by scholars who have examined the evidence. The only ones
who appear to have accepted these theories are those who already
are opposed to the pre-trib rapture. A look at various scholars
and historians reveals that they think, in varying degrees, that
MacPherson has not proven his point. Most, if not all who are
quoted below do not hold to the pre-trib rapture teaching. Ernest
R. Sandeen declares, 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. . . . Since the clear
intention of this charge is to discredit the doctrine by attributing
its origin to fanaticism rather than Scripture, there seems little
ground for giving it any credence.
- 22 Historian Timothy P. Weber's evaluation is a follows:
The pretribulation rapture was a neat solution to a thorny problem
and historians are still trying to determine how or where Darby
got it. . . . A newer though still not totally convincing view
contends that the doctrine initially appeared in a prophetic
vision of Margaret Macdonald, . . . Possibly, we may have to
settle for Darby's own explanation. He claimed that the doctrine
virtually jumped out of the pages of Scripture once he accepted
and consistently maintained the distinction between Israel and
- 23 American historian Richard R. Reiter informs us that,
[Robert] Cameron probably traced this important but apparently
erroneous view back to S. P. Tregelles, . . . Recently more detailed
study on this view as the origin of pretribulationism appeared
in works by Dave McPherson, . . . historian Ian S. Rennie . .
. regarded McPherson's case as interesting but not conclusive.
- 24 Posttribulationist William E. Bell asserts that, It seems
only fair, however, in the absence of eyewitnesses to settle
the argument conclusively, that the benefit of the doubt should
be given to Darby, and that the charge made by Tregelles be regarded
as a possibility but with insufficient support to merit its acceptance.
. . . On the whole, however, it seems that Darby is perhaps the
most likely choice--with help from Tweedy. This conclusion is
greatly strengthened by Darby's own claim to have arrived at
the doctrine through his study of II Thessalonians 2:1-2.
- 25 Pre-trib rapture opponent John Bray does not accept the
MacPherson thesis either. He [Darby] rejected those practices,
and he already had his new view of the Lord coming FOR THE SAINTS
(as contrasted to the later coming to the earth) which he had
believed since 1827, . . . It was the coupling of this "70th
week of Daniel" prophecy and its futuristic interpretation,
with the teaching of the "secret rapture," that gave
to us the completed "Pre-tribulation Secret Rapture"
teaching as it has now been taught for many years. . . . makes
it impossible for me to believe that Darby got his Pre-Tribulation
Rapture teaching from Margaret MacDonald's vision in 1830. He
was already a believer in it since 1827, as he plainly said.
- 26 Huebner considers MacPherson's charges as "using
slander that J. N. Darby took the (truth of the) pretribulation
rapture from those very opposing, demon-inspired utterances."
- 27 He goes on to conclude that MacPherson did not profit
by reading the utterances allegedly by Miss M. M. Instead of
apprehending the plain import of her statements, as given by
R. Norton, which has some affinity to the post-tribulation scheme
and no real resemblance to the pretribulation rapture and dispensational
truth, he has read into it what he appears so anxious to find.
- 28 CONCLUSION
- F. F. Bruce, who was part of the Brethren movement his entire
life, but one who did not agree with the pre-trib rapture said
the following when commenting on the validity of MacPherson's
thesis: Where did he [Darby] get it? The reviewer's answer would
be that it was in the air in the 1820s and 1830s among eager
students of unfulfilled prophecy, . . . direct dependence by
Darby on Margaret Macdonald is unlikely.'
- 29 John Walvoord's assessment is likely close to the truth:
any careful student of Darby soon discovers that he did not get
his eschatological views from men, but rather from his doctrine
of the church as the body of Christ, a concept no one claims
was revealed supernaturally to Irving or Macdonald. Darby's views
undoubtedly were gradually formed, but they were theologically
and biblically based rather than derived from Irving's pre-Pentecostal
- 30 I challenge opponents of the pre-trib rapture to stick
to a discussion of this matter based upon the Scriptures. While
some have done this, many have not been so honest. To call the
pre-trib position Satanic, as Rosenthal has done, does not help
anyone in this discussion. Such rhetoric will only serve to cause
greater polarization of the two views. However, when pre-trib
opponents make false charges about the history of the pre-trib
view we must respond. And respond we will in our next issue where
we will present a clear pre-trib rapture statement from the fourth
or fifth century.
- This pre-trib rapture statement ante-dates 1830 by almost
1,500 years and will certainly lead to at least a revision of
those propagating The Big Lie.
- 1 Marvin J. Rosenthal, "Is the Church
in Matthew Chapter 24?" Zion's Fire (Nov-Dec 1994), p. 10.
- 2 Ibid.
- 3 John L. Bray, The Origin of the Pre-Tribulation
Rapture Teaching (Lakeland, FL.: John L. Bray Ministry, 1982).
- 4 Dave MacPherson, The Unbelievable Pre-Trib
Origin (Kansas City: Heart of America Bible Society, 1973). The
Late Great Pre-Trib Rapture (Kansas City: Heart of America Bible
Society, 1974). The Great Rapture Hoax (Fletcher, N.C.: New Puritan
Library, 1983). Rapture? (Fletcher, N.C.: New Puritan Library,
1987). The Rapture Plot (Monticello, Utah: P.O.S.T. Inc., 1994).
- 5 Robert Van Kampen, The Sign (Wheaton, IL.:
Crossway Books, 1992), pp. 445-47.
- 6 Marvin Rosenthal, The Pre-Wrath Rapture
of the Church (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), p.
- 7 Ibid., pp. 53-54.
- 8 Some of the pre-trib responses include
the following: R. A. Huebner, The Truth of the Pre-Tribulation
Rapture Recovered (Millington, N.J.: Present Truth Publishers,
1976); Precious Truths Revived and Defended Through J. N. Darby,
Vol. 1 (Morganville, N. J.: Present Truth Publishers, 1991).
Gerald B. Stanton, Kept From The Hour, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,
1956). John F. Walvoord, The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979). Robert L. Sumner, "Looking
For The Blessed Horrible Holocaust!"
- A book review of The Late Great Pre-Trib
Rapture in The Biblical Evangelist (Vol. 10, Num. 1; May, 1975);
"Hope? Or Hoax?" The Biblical Evangelist (Vol. 18,
Num. 3; Feb., 1984). Hal Lindsey, The Rapture: Truth Or Consequences
(New York: Bantam Books, 1983). Charles Ryrie, What You Should
Know About the Rapture (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981). Tim LaHaye,
No Fear of the Storm: Why Christians will Escape All the Tribulation
(Sisters, Ore.: Multnomah, 1992). Thomas D. Ice, "Why the
Doctrine of the Pretribulational Rapture Did Not Begin with Margaret
- Bibliotheca Sacra 147 (1990), pp. 155-68;
"The Origin of the Pre-Trib Rapture," Part I &
II, Biblical Perspectives, vol. 2, no. 1, Jan./Feb. 1989 &
vol. 2, no. 2, Mar./Apr. 1989; "Did J. N. Darby Believe
in the Pretrib Rapture by 1827?" Dispensational Distinctives,
vol. I, no. 6, Nov./Dec. 1991.
- 9 The following books are some of those which
have the full text of Macdonald's utterance: MacPherson's Cover-Up,
and Hoax. R. A. Huebner, The Truth of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture
Recovered (Millington, N.J.: Present Truth Publishers, 1976),
pp. 67-69. Hal Lindsey, The Rapture: Truth Or Consequences (New
York: Bantam Books, 1983), pp. 169-172. William R. Kimball, The
Rapture: A Question of Timing (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,
1985), pp. 44-47.
- 10 Ice, "Why the Doctrine of the Pretribulational
Rapture Did Not Begin with Margaret Macdonald," pp. 158,
- 11 Walvoord, The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation,
- 12 R. A. Huebner, Precious Truths Revived
and Defended Through J. N. Darby, Vol. 1 (Morganville, N. J.:
Present Truth Publishers, 1991).
- 13 Ibid., p. 17.
- 14 Ibid., p. 19.
- 15 Ibid., p. 18.
- 16 Ibid., p. 23. 17 Ibid., p. 24.
- 18 Max S. Weremchuk, John Nelson Darby: A
Biography (Neptune, N. J.: Loizeaux Brothers, 1992).
- 19 Ibid., p. 242.
- 20 J. N. Darby, "Reflections upon the
Prophetic Inquiry and the Views Advanced in it" The Collected
Writings of J. N. Darby, vol. 2 (Winschoten, Netherlands: H.
L. Heijkoop, reprint 1971), pp. 1-31.
- 21 Ibid., pp. 16-18, 25, 30.
- 22 Ernest R. Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism:
British and American Millenarianism 1800-1930 (Grand Rapids:
Baker Book House, 1970), p. 64.
- 23 Timothy P. Weber, Living In The Shadow
Of The Second Coming: American Premillennialism 1875-1982 (Grand
Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983), pp. 21-22.
- 24 Richard R. Reiter, The Rapture: Pre-,
Mid-, or Post-Tribulational? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publication,
1984), p. 236.
- 25 William E. Bell, A Critical Evaluation
of the Pretribulation Rapture Doctrine in Christian Eschatology
(Ph.D. diss., New York University, 1967), pp. 60-61, 64-65.
- 26 Bray, Ibid., pp. 24-25, 28
- 27 Huebner, p. 13.
- 28 Ibid., p. 67.
- 29 F. F. Bruce, Review of The Unbelievable
Pre-Trib Origin in The Evangelical Quarterly, (Vol. XLVII, No.
1; Jan-Mar, 1975), p. 58.
- 30 Walvoord, p. 47. http://www.novia.net/~todd/tt11.html