Wednesday, December 29, 2010

History of a Heresy, Part 5: The Timing of the Rapture

“Because the symbolism of types can be interpreted according to other influences, once sound Biblical hermeneutics are ignored, the interpretation of the feasts varied significantly from year to year. Irvingites shifted the Rapture from feast 6 (of Leviticus 23’s seven feasts) to feast 5, then feast 4 and even feast 3 within a few years.”

These followers of Edward Irving, the pastor of Margaret McDonald, kept moving up the timing of the Rapture so that it moved from the end of the Tribulation to the middle, and eventually to the beginning!

They were NOT using sound principles of Biblical interpretation. Rather than taking a text in its context, as it was written, they spiritualized and allegorized the text to match their preconceived ideas!

And it led to heresy.

We now have ALL the elements necessary for a pre-tribulation Rapture:

1. The Doctrine of Imminency – Rooted in Catholic allegory

2. A split Second Coming of Christ – Conceived by a Jesuit priest

3. A secret coming of Christ for His saints – Seen in a vision by a 15-year old Charismatic Catholic

4. The Rapture moved to the beginning of the Tribulation – Based on unsound Biblical hermeneutics

As a minister of the Church of Scotland, Edward Irving attended the prophetic conferences (1826-1830) held by Henry Drummond at Albury Park, England. When Irving first suggested the secret coming of Christ, the controversial idea split those in attendance into factions.

Many Christian scholars of the time wrote against this new doctrine.

Thomas Croskery of Ireland wrote, “…this idea of the Lord removing his church secretly…was never heard of till it was proclaimed in one of the delusive utterances of the Irvingites in 1832.

William Reid, in 1880, wrote that “Edward Irving contributed to the notion of…the secret rapture of the saints.”

Dr. Samuel Tregelles (AD 1813-1875), one of the finest scholars of his time, was a member of the Brethren until he left them because of the secret coming doctrine. He once stated, “I am not aware that there was any definite teaching that there should be a Secret Rapture of the Church at a secret coming until it was given forth as an ‘utterance’ in Mr. Irving’s church from what was then received as being the voice of the Spirit. But whether anyone ever asserted such a thing or not it was from that supposed revelation that the modern doctrine and modern phraseology respecting it arose. It came not from the Holy Scriptures, but from that which falsely pretended to be the Spirit of God.

Dr. Tregelles also wrote, “But when the theory of a secret coming of Christ was first brought forward (about the year 1832) it was adopted with eagerness: it suited certain preconceived opinions, and it was accepted by some as that which harmonized contradictory thoughts.” He also referred to the secret coming as a new doctrine writing, “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;…

Robert Baxter was a Plymouth Brethren who, after a few years of his joining the group, left over controversy surrounding the secret coming.

In 1833, he wrote in his firsthand account of the Irvingite movement, “An opinion had been advanced in some of Mr. Irving’s writings, that before the second coming of Christ, and before the setting in upon the world of the day of vengeance, emphatically so called in the Scriptures, the saints would be caught up to heaven like Enoch and Elijah and would be thus saved from the destruction of this world, … This was an opinion I never could entertain; conceiving, as I did, that our refuge…would be some earthly sanctuary, until the Lord should come, the dead be raised, and those remaining alive should be caught up (I Thess iv.17).

Baxter also wrote, [T]he delusion first appeared in Scotland…it was not until adopted and upheld by Mr. Irving that it began to challenge much attention.” Also, “[with] the successive failures of prophecy and contradictions of utterances…I was convinced it was a work of Satan…” “[W]e had all been speaking by a lying spirit, and not by the Spirit of the Lord.“…the doctrine of the second advent of our Lord…was the leading theme of our utterances…

Robert Norton in 1861 wrote a book titled, The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets in the Catholic Apostolic Church. This was Irving’s movement. Interestingly, Norton took the view that the movement was a genuine work of the Holy Spirit. Yet Norton ALSO attributed the beginning of the secret rapture doctrine to the Irvingites and the visions of Margaret MacDonald.

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.

The question must be asked, Do you still believe in the pre-trib Rapture?


  1. Great blog! I have a copy of historian Dave MacPherson's comprehensive book "The Rapture Plot" which I obtained at Armageddon Books online and his book backs up everything you say about how the pretribulation rapture was developed and how, over many years, the fanatical British rapturists hopscotched from symbol to symbol to symbol in the book of Revelation (moving the rapture "basis" from the end of that book forward towards the beginning of it) so that those rapture groupies could "get out of" more and more of the tribulation! What a scream! Since Jack Van Impe bases his pretrib rapture on Rev. 4:1, I wonder if he knows how long it took for those 19th century rapturists to laboriously stretch forward their "basis," symbol by symbol, until it plopped down, exhausted, on to Rev. 4:1! Thanks for your great contribution, Lord bless.

  2. Thanks, fairmack! I'll have to check out those resources; sounds like more blog material to me!

    Yes, Rev. 4:1 has been the subject of much allegorical interpretation. I have a post that I'll do later on it.

    Glad you enjoy!