PreTrib Rapture “GOTCHA” Allegations Refuted
From my book: The Body of Christ will not go through Israel’s Tribulation
Dr. Mike Johnston
“But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:16-18)
A lie often repeated is a lie often believed. Confirming this axiom is the cavalier manner in which PreTrib rapture antagonists use tired – and well refuted – “gotcha” arguments to prove a case unprovable otherwise. This waged with a few unsubstantiated narratives appearing on hundreds of parroting websites that form the basis for “gotcha” schemes that in reality continue fooling just three types of people: those who hold an antipathy toward truth, those who are anemic to truth, and those who are apathetic to truth even when confronted by it.
The Word Rapture isn’t used in the Bible
That’s not exactly true! Opponents of the PreTrib rapture often argue from ignorance against it simply because the term rapture is not used in the King James Bible. However, in the Latin Vulgate of 325 AD we find the word “rapio” used in 1 Thess 4:17 where the KJV uses “caught up.”
There isn’t a single verse in the Bible teaching a PreTrib rapture
Not true! Although I’ve heard this for over three decades, it is still a stupidly strange thing to say. In light of the fact that I presented several verses in this book supporting a PreTrib rapture – all underwritten by prophecy and the fact that it is Israel’s tribulation and as such is NOT for the Body of Christ – tells me two things about you: First, you probably have an agenda based upon an advanced outcome that isn’t open to change, and second – if that is true – you probably also enjoy wasting the time of anyone who dares disagree with you, by calling in question their intellect, sanity, and of course salvation. No thanks, I’m not interested!
The Rapture was never taught until 1830
That’s not true. However, you’d think it is since it’s impossible to discuss the rapture without hearing that it’s a satanic plot that never existed until 1830. (see rebuttal in Appendix [i]). This argument forms the crux of a hook or crook campaign waged by rapture antagonists wishing to wedge the church into the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7) – where she can’t be seen and doesn’t belong. Paradoxically, while their battle boasts strict Biblical auspices it hasn’t been waged sola scriptura. It has risen instead on the back of untruthful accusations disguised as “scholarship” from men conflating God’s plan for Israel with His plan for the church that over time has proven to be part of the an unhinged scheme with impure motives.
The plot began as an allegation beaten like a jungle drum since the 1970s by a neurotic  rapture-loathing newsman named Dave MacPherson.[ii] Borrowing and twisting the undocumented claims of Textus Receptus enemy Samuel Tregelles – MacPherson has amassed a cult like following for what has become a franchise of slanderous [iii] writings  presenting the rapture  as a pervasive fraud with an elaborate cover up hiding a dubious origin.
The alleged conspiracy – unverified yet ballyhooed by a crowing coterie of contrarians – centers around a demon possessed charismatic girl named Margaret MacDonald  who in 1830 is said to have conjured up the PreTrib rapture  in a dream while she was a member of Edward Irving’s  Catholic Apostolic Church.  According to MacPherson’s mythos, that’s when the great Bible scholar and dispensationalist John Nelson Darby pirated it for his own use then gave it to CI Scofield to publish in his reference Bible as part of a sinister plot to deceive Christians for no apparent reason other than the indescribable joy both men received from misleading people. To make matters worse, no one – including Tregelles, MacPherson, nor any of their lackey loyalists – has ever provided a shred of credible proof linking Darby or Scofield directly to plagiarizing MacDonald or to any of these appalling activities. Commenting on the entire charade, Dr. John Walvoord wrote, “The whole controversy as aroused by Dave MacPherson’s claims has so little supporting evidence … one wonders how he can write his book with a straight face.” Walvoord continues, “Pretribulationists should be indebted to Dave MacPherson for exposing the facts, namely, that there is no proof that MacDonald … originated the pretribulation rapture teaching.”
Sadly, truth is meaningless to an activist with an agenda. In the absence of evidence, MacPherson’s minions fill their books and blogs with a daisy chain of chicanery from bibliographical references listing him and one another as their sources.  This then is glibly passed off as scholarship to their low information audience who don’t give a rip about Biblical integrity as long as it comes to the agreed upon anti-rapture conclusion their contentious cabal coagulates around.
After a lengthy and fair examination of the “facts” linking Darby to a demonic charismatic vision, post-trib proponent even John Bray conceded, “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. . . . (and) 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.”
Dave’s friends deserted him
The entire MacPherson 1830 rapture ruse reminds me of the book of Esther. Haman was a pompous prevaricating political insider who over estimated his value to the king. He was also a rabid anti-Semite who in a fit of rage ordered gallows built to lynch his nemesis, Esther’s uncle Mordecai. Ironically, once the king discovered Haman’s lies, the nefarious accommodations he’d built for Mordecai served quite adequately to hang Haman and his household instead. Divine reciprocity at its best!
In my opinion, Mr. MacPherson did the same thing using his mendacity as the gallows to destroy the rapture. Surely as a seasoned reporter, he must have expected the scrutiny from PreTrib scholars like Dr. Walvoord and others  he received. However, how could he foresee the backlash from fellow post trib journalists he thought would cover for him? After examining his spurious allegations, they did the unthinkable; they stood him up by unmasking his deception in full view of everyone paying attention. 
The irony here is like a well scripted play. MacPherson’s elaborate scheme representing the rapture as a big lie was in the end itself unmasked using a bigger lie to do it; eerily similar to the strategy outlined in the Josef Goebbels Propaganda Playbook  don’t you think?
I’ll close this section with a final though from MacPherson researcher Frank Morotta,
“It is significant that MacPherson is the lone ‘historian’ who has argued a connection between MacDonald and Darby.  Considering that there have been numerous historical examinations of both the Irvingites and the Brethren, yet MacPherson stands alone in exposing the “plot,” is rather a testimony to polemical bias, not the facts. Those anti-pretribulationists who have adopted MacPherson’s revision have done so merely on the basis of his word, not as a result of original research.”
The end of it? Hardly. As long as Dave can sell books containing his tirades and twaddle, the satanic plot masking the real circumstances surrounding the origin of the rapture will no doubt continue its charade virtually unabated.
The Bible doesn’t teach imminency
Wrong! This argument is used in a myriad of ways by anti-PreTrib proponents in the advancement of their scheme. They begin with the notion that the early church didn’t teach imminence and yet their greeting proves otherwise: Maranatha (James 5:9; Rev. 3:11; 1 John 3:2-3). Dr. Walvoord quotes the Didache (apostolic teachings) dated about 100-120 A.D., which contains the exhortation: “Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ye ready, for ye know not the hour in which our Lord cometh.”
Paul didn’t believe in imminence since he was told he had to go to Rome to preach: Phil. 4:5. This is preposterous. Paul often taught believers to look for Christ and be ready for His any moment return. The fact is, while God ordered many things in Scripture, He also adjusted His plans according to His will (“it repented the Lord”, etc). Paul was merely being obedient to the divine prerogative. Peter didn’t believe in imminence because he was told he would die: First Pet. 4:7. See comment above.
I’ve listed a few examples of an any moment expectation of the Lord Jesus’ return for His church:
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3).
“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Rom. 13:11).
“So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7).
“For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come” (1 Cor. 11:26).
“Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed (52) In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51-52).
“For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Phil. 4:5) Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand” (Phil. 3:20).
“And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10).
“Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”.
The Last Trumpet of First Corinthians 15:52
is the Seventh Trumpet of Revelation
That’s not true! Those who hold to a midtribulation rapture teach that the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11:15 and the last trumpet of First Corinthians 15:52 and First Thessalonians 4:16 are identical. Those who teach a pretribulation rapture identify them as separate events. What difference does it make, and how can we know the truth?
Why does it matter whether or not the trumpets are the same? God has given us His Word as the revelation of His plan of redemption, and that plan covers everything from creation to the new creation. Deuteronomy 29:29 says “the secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” There are many things that God has chosen to reveal to us, and it is important for us to understand them so that we can obey Him. We don’t always understand why He does things, but we are called to trust Him for the parts we don’t understand, and to study to understand the rest. As we look at the texts about these trumpets, it becomes clear that they are part of a chronology that God has given us of events in the last days. Whether or not we are still living when those events come to pass, they involve us, so we ought to know what God has revealed to us.
The book of Revelation has sometimes been viewed as a book of mystery, yet the title itself implies something brought out of hiding. More specifically, it is “the revelation of Jesus Christ… to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass” (Revelation 1:1). God wants us to know what is going to happen, so we can be prepared, and to help us in calling others to repentance. Beginning in chapter 6, we are given a chronological record of things that will happen in the last days. There is a series of seven seals, then a series of seven trumpets, then a series of seven bowls of wrath. We read in Revelation 11:15, “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.’” In the context, this clearly seems to come around the middle of the tribulation period.
First Corinthians 15
In First Corinthians 15, Paul is writing to believers concerning the transition from this life to eternal life. Our mortal bodies will be transformed into immortal, incorruptible bodies, prepared for the eternal kingdom of God. Verse 52 says, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” Paul addresses the same subject to the Thessalonians, and specifically connects it with the (Rapture) of Christ. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (First Thessalonians 4:16-17).
There is no question that God has revealed these things to us, and that He intends for us to be encouraged and instructed by them. The question is whether they are the same. If they are the same, then the rapture of the church happens in the middle of the tribulation period, and saints need to be prepared to endure those trials. If they are not the same, then we need to know when the last trump will sound, so that we can be prepared for it. In order to find out whether they are the same, we can compare the events they are associated with.
Chart: Trumpet Comparison
|Events||First Corinthians 15||First Thessalonians 4||Revelation 11|
|Trumpet sound||v. 52||v. 16||v. 15|
|Dead saints raised||v. 52||v. 16|
|Living saints changed||v. 52||v. 17|
|Death overcome by victory||v. 54||v. 14|
|Jesus descends from Heaven||v. 16||Not until Rev 19:11|
|Kingdoms of the world taken over by Christ||v. 15|
|Wrath of God on dead||v. 18|
|Rewards given to saints||v. 18|
|Intended result||v. 57-58 – thanks, victory, faithfulness until then||v. 18 – comfort now, presence with Christ then||v. 14,17 – woe on earth, thanks in Heaven|
It is clear that the first two fit together, but the third doesn’t appear to have any correlation in either the events described or the intended results. The argument connecting them has to depend on the meaning of the word “last” in First Corinthians 15:52. The Greek word eschatos can mean either last in point of time or last in point of sequence. This trumpet sounds before the wrath of God descends, yet Revelation 6:17 speaks of the wrath of the Lamb as having come, and the seventh trumpet doesn’t sound until Revelation 11:15. The trumpet of First Thessalonians is given in a moment, whereas Revelation 10:7 indicates that the seventh trumpet will be sounded for a number of days. Even though the seventh trumpet is the last one described in Revelation, Matthew 24:31 indicates there is yet another trumpet which will sound “after the tribulation of those days,” when Christ returns to the earth, which parallels with Revelation 19.
First Thessalonians 4
If the “last trumpet” of First Thessalonians 4 is not the same as the seventh trumpet, then what was Paul referring to? Both First Thessalonians and First Corinthians were written long before John wrote Revelation, so Paul’s readers would have no knowledge of the seven trumpets of Revelation. Paul intended for them to understand what he was writing about, so we need to look elsewhere for clarification. Paul’s writing was distinctly in reference to the church, and the closing of the church age at the rapture. Throughout Scripture, trumpets were used as signals to gather people, to set armies on the move, and as part of the worship of God. The trumpet that summons the church is called “the trump of God,” while those in Revelation are angelic trumpets. Since it is a summoning trumpet, we can look to the Old Testament for further understanding. Numbers 10 gives instruction to Israel about the use of trumpets to calling an assembly of the people and to set them in motion. The first trumpet blast (v. 4) called the leaders together, while a continual blowing was an alarm for the people. A series of trumpet blasts was the signal for each group of tribes to begin their journeys, and the last blast indicated the movement of the last group in the camp. Similarly, First Corinthians 15:23 speaks of different orders, or ranks, in the resurrection: “Every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming.” Further, First Thessalonians 4:16-17 divides Christ’s own into two groups – the dead in Christ, and those who are alive and remain.
So if the trumpet is the call for saints to assemble and journey to heaven, what does that mean for us? Jesus said that no one knows when the Day of the Lord will begin (Matthew 24:36), and First Thessalonians describes it as coming as a thief in the night, without warning. In First Corinthians 15:58, we are told to be “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Just like the Israelites in the wilderness, we do not know when the trumpet will sound, so we are to be always ready. While we may not know the day or hour, we have been given enough information to know it can happen at any moment. We are to be ready, putting on the armor of God, because we have been appointed to receive salvation through Jesus Christ (First Thessalonians 5:8-9). 
The Rapture by Christ happens immediately
after the tribulation as taught in Matthew 24:29
That’s not true! Bible teachers desperate to disprove the PreTrib rapture of the church invariably run to this Matthew 24:29 for their principal “gotcha” moment. However, if they were as zealous for context as they are for conflict they’d discover the entire passage is under a Jewish setting and based on Old Covenant prophecy for Israel’s Kingdom on earth.  The Lord’s return He Himself pictured is the Revelation prophesied all through the Old Testament for Israel.  It has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE BODY OF CHRIST. The four disciples it was delivered to (Peter, James, John, Andrew – Mark 13:3) had no frame of reference for the Body of Christ,  and no connection to it when interpreting it or instructing others. They simply wanted to know when Jesus would return to set up the Jewish Kingdom (Mark 13; see Matt. 24; Luke 21) recently rejected. [NOTE: Peter, James, and John were exclusive ministers of the Jews, aka the circumcision-Gal. 2:7-9]. In response the Lord provided several signs (Jews require signs- 1 Cor. 1:22) referencing twice Moses’ tribulation  prophecy (Deut. 4:30) He revealed would precede the Kingdom,
“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be . . . Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, (this describes the Revelation of Christ, not the Rapture. See Last Days Signs in the Sun, Moon, and Stars in Appendix) and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken” (Matthew 24:21, 29).
Antichrist must come first according
to Second Thessalonians Two
That’s not true! “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).
We premise this discussion with an old adage that states, “Any text out of context is a pretext.”
The argument depends on this passage teaching that the Antichrist must appear before the rapture. However, this passage makes no sense if the Thessalonians had been taught anything but a PreTrib rapture (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9).
Here’s the synopsis.
A forged letter from Paul arrived in Thessalonica claiming the day of Christ (which scholars teach includes the Rapture and the day of the Lord-or tribulation) was at hand or had begun.
When refuting this, Paul admonished them in view of the pre-trib rapture he had taught them (v1-2) they should take heart knowing that day could not begin while they were on earth. Then, in an effort to prove they were not in the tribulation, he used illustrations of what that time will be like: a falling away, the appearance of the son of perdition, the abomination of desolation in the temple, and so on.Arno Gaebelein writes: He uses this hope of being gathered to Christ, when He comes for His saints, as a motive why they should not listen to those who said the day of the Lord is present. He reminds them of the fact that their gathering unto Him had not yet taken place. How, then, could the day of the Lord be present? And this opens the way for still more important teaching.
Consider this carefully. If Paul had taught them they were going through the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7), why were they scared since this would mean the Lord Jesus would after all be returning within seven years? Moreover, if they were to endure the tribulation wrath, why didn’t Paul encourage them to stock pile food, weapons, and other necessities since this would have been the perfect opportunity to teach them? The fact is, Paul clearly taught them two comings of Christ: the Rapture where the Lord comes for His church to deliver them from the time of Jacob’s (Israel’s) trouble aka day of the Lord (YHWH) which is to come (1 Thess. 1:10; 4:13-18; 5:9, 23) and the Revelation where Christ returns with His church after the tribulation: 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; see Matt. 24:29; Rev. 19:11-21].
PreTrib Rapture teachers are in
cahoots with Satan to deceive the Church
This baseless indictment is sadly typical of the attitude of those who hold a different opinion on the tribulation and coming of Christ for the church. Not only is this an unwarranted and unkind assessment, the far reaching scope of it is a blanket indictment of some of history’s finest Bible teachers including Paul, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Hippolytus, JN Darby, CI Scofield, Charles Spurgeon, DL Moody, Lewis Chafer, HA Ironside, RA Torrey, Arno C. Gaebelein, J. Dwight Pentecost, J. Vernon McGee, Harold Willmington, Ed Hindson, Noah Hutchings, Zola Levitt, Renald Showers, Randell Price, David Hocking, John Walvoord, Mark Hitchcock, Tommy Ice, Chuck Missler, Lehman Strauss, Grant Jeffrey, Hal Lindsey, JR Church, Dave Hunt, Gary Stearman, Tim LaHaye, Jack Van Impe and on and on. And while this impressive list does not in itself prove the dispensational, PreTrib position, it certainly makes a strong statement in favor of it when compared with the host of virtual unknown names attached to their roster.
PreTrib Rapture isn’t fair
to everyone in Church History
That’s not true! The argument is framed like this. “It’s not fair that the modern church should escape tribulation when throughout history many have suffered and died.” The fact is, fairness isn’t a Biblical doctrine. It’s part of end time’s political correctness the church has become sadly victimized by. If MacPherson’s scenario were true, God will have to resurrect every person in history who was not been vigorously and viciously persecuted or martyred to give them their fair share. The “Greek” word for that is balderdash!
The Tribulation will purify the Church
That’s not true! To begin with, it ignores the fact that there are many in the church living exemplary lives who would be chastised along with the backsliders. Second, this would also indicate that our salvation wasn’t complete at Calvary even though the Lord stated otherwise: “It is finished” (John 19:30)! Third, this would mean righteousness and holiness come from works rather than from Christ as the Bible tells us: “To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). He alone presents us holy in heaven, not we ourselves: “In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight” (Colossians 1:22).
The Rapture is Just an Escape
This is a strange and may I say – disingenuous – allegation since the entirety of the Christian faith is an escape from the punishment of Hell and the Lake of Fire God created for the devil and his followers (Matt. 25:41). Does not our faith in Christ guarantee our ESCAPE from that? Moreover, God’s Word not only promises our escape from Hell but from wrath (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9). Since the entire seven year tribulation that originated from prophecy and exists in the prophecy program for Israel is wrath meted out and or overseen by God (Rev. 6:16-17; 12:12; 14:10, 19; 15:1; 7; 16:1; etc) the Body of Christ will not be here.
None of the Church Fathers taught a PreTrib Rapture
That’s not true! They certainly did believe in an imminent, PreTrib rapture and addressed one another with Maranatha which means “the Lord is at hand.” Clement wrote quite extensively on the principles of the topic in an epistle to the Corinthians he drafted in either 68 or 97 AD. The Lord Jesus taught: Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh (Matthew 24:44; see Luke 12:40). And Paul incessantly instructed the church to watch for Christ in anticipation of His any moment arrival: 1 Cor.. 1:7; 4:5; Phil 3:20-21; 4:5; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; 4:16-17; 5:5-9; Titus 2:13. It was in fact labeled a blessed hope was it not (Titus 2:13)? Dr. Henry Thiessen further refutes these false allegations with the following: “The early Church was keenly interested in the doctrine of the return of Christ. The Apostles had held out the possibility of His returning in their day, and the next generations kept alive the “blessed hope” as something that was imminent. Not until the third century was there any great exception to this rule; but from the time of Constantine onward this truth began to be rejected until it was finally entirely set aside.” Anti-rapturists go so far with this distortion as to suggest Paul never taught the imminency. The fact is, Paul believed he would be alive for the rapture which he looked for in his life time: we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord . . . we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed (1 Thess. 4:15; 1 Cor. 15:51; see also Phil 3:20; 1 Thess. 1:10; Titus 2:13).
The PreTrib Rapture is a Satanic Deception
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 Bray3 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 year 1830.”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 rapture teaching.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-year-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 rapture hinges.”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 the church.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
- 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 group.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.
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. 53.
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 Macdonald,” 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, 161.
11 Walvoord, The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation, p. 47.
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.
The Rapture is not PreTrib, it is PreWrath
That’s true specifically! However, not as supposed in a recent rapture theory called the PreWrath rapture. In his great article entitled “The Pre-Wrath Rapture” Dr. David Reagan of Lamb and Lion Ministries writes: “In 1990 Marvin Rosenthal presented a fourth viewpoint in his book, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church. Rosenthal was not the originator of this new viewpoint. Rather, he was the one who popularized it with his book. The person who conceived the “Pre-Wrath” view of the Rapture was a man named Robert Van Kampen (1938-1999). Van Kampen became one of America’s richest men through his involvement in investment banking. During his lifetime he accumulated one of the largest private collections of rare and antique Bibles in North America.
In the 1970’s Van Kampen began developing the “Pre- Wrath” concept of the timing of the Rapture. Once he had completed his work on the concept, he started trying to find a well known person in the field of Bible prophecy to endorse his new view. That person finally turned out to be Marvin Rosenthal, who at the time was serving as the director of a very influential ministry called Friends of Israel. Rosenthal tried to convince the board of the ministry to abandon its commitment to the Pre-Trib view and accept the new viewpoint. They refused, and Rosenthal was forced to depart. He went to Florida where he built the Holy Land Experience — a Christian theme park which has since been taken over by the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Today, Rosenthal serves as the director of Zion’s Hope, a ministry located in Winter Garden, Florida.”
The Van Kampen rapture hypothesis is described and debunked in the following article entitled The PreWrath Rapture: A Pretrib Evaluation by Dr. Myron J. Houghton.
I. An Explanation of the Prewrath Rapture View
“Plainly stated, the core truth is this: the persecution by Antichrist during the great tribulation will be the wrath of Satan (Rev. 12:12), not the wrath of God. When the sign of the sun, moon, and stars is given in the heavens, the wrath of Satan against the elect of God will be terminated, the faithful to God will be raptured, and then the wrath of God will begin against the wicked who remain, ending with the battle of Armageddon. Thus, the Rapture of God’s saints has to occur sometime during the second half of the tribulation period, during Antichrist’s persecution of God’s elect. Plain and simple! No more, no less,” (pages 47,48. Unless otherwise noted, emphasis in the citations are by Dr. Van Kampen).
II. An Evaluation of Key Issues
Hermeneutics. “The text must be understood at face value, in its most natural, normal, customary sense, making allowances for obvious figures of speech, its context, and all the other passages of Scripture dealing with the same issue. When in doubt, let Scripture interpret Scripture! Once the common denominator is found that harmonizes all the passages, without contradiction, then we have the truth, but not before. And once we have truth, that truth stands in judgment of us; never do we dare stand in judgment of it!” (page 32).
Letting Scripture interpret Scripture is true enough as a principle but in practice it could become nothing more than our theology telling a biblical passage what it can or cannot mean. Trying to determine the meaning from the context of such a passage is a better procedure than going to other passages which may or may not be dealing with the same subject. Context is to be preferred over proof text. Why? One may think he has found the “common denominator that harmonizes all the passages” but may be wrong. In any case, whether the interpreter is right or wrong, once he has determined that he has found the correct view, if he follows Dr. Van Kampen’s advice, there is no way to convince him otherwise, since “never do we dare stand in judgment of it!” (page 32).
This reviewer found three matters that Dr. Van Kampen raised as important to be straw men in reality.
First is the matter of just how explicit the Bible is concerning the timing of the Rapture. In this book, Dr. Walvoord, former president of Dallas Theological Seminary and staunch pretribulationist, is quoted as saying, “neither posttribulationism nor pretribulationism is an explicit teaching of the Scriptures. The Bible does not, in so many words, state either” (page 44). On the other hand, referring to his own view, the prewrath Rapture, the author states, “The truth of the matter is, Scripture could not be clearer on this issue, not only as to the fact of Christ’s coming and the judgment that will occur when He comes, but also the timing of His coming as it relates to other end time events” (page 14).
Of course, if Dr. Van Kampen is correct, if “Scripture could not be clearer on this issue,” he could have produced a one-page list of Bible references where the Bible states in so many words the prewrath Rapture! Instead, he has given us a book of over 200 pages in which various biblical passages are interpreted but in which no explicit statement from Scripture is given. In fact, he states, “it is necessary to understand how four distinct biblical truths are interrelated if we are to gain a proper understanding of the whole of end time events. Each of these truths plays an important part in a complete and accurate biblical view of the return of Christ…” (page 51). Dr. Walvoord himself couldn’t have said it any better!
Second is the issue of whether there is one future coming [parousia] of Christ or two. Dr. Van Kampen maintains that pretribulationists must hold to two comings, while he argues the Bible teaches only one (see pages 94–101). If the author were posttribulational [which he is not!] his distinction would be clear: Posttribulationism teaches Christ comes to rapture believers and immediately returns to set up His kingdom——one coming. But Dr. Van Kampen, like pretribulationists, believes there is a period of time between the Rapture and Christ’s return to set up His kingdom. But he argues for a single coming because he sees the coming as including “different activities… as was the case with His first coming” (pages 97,98). In other words, he views Christ’s second coming in a comprehensive way, including the Rapture and the return to set up the millennial kingdom. This reviewer wonders why it is not possible to view Christ’s coming both ways without one of them being wrong! When I wrote to Dr. Van Kampen’s ministry about any real difference between these two ways of looking at Christ’s return, Rev. Charles Cooper replied: “The rapture of the church and Christ coming at Armageddon is one whole event composed of several parts.” In his evaluation of the difference between his understanding and the pretribulational understanding of Christ’s return, Rev. Cooper said, “Fundamentally, we may be talking about a subtle variation in meaning” (letter to this reviewer from Rev. Charles Cooper, Director of Field Ministries for THE SIGN MINISTRIES, October 8, 1997). I agree: the variation in meaning is very subtle!
Third is the matter of whether or not the flood began on the same day Noah entered the ark. Dr. Van Kampen, using Matthew 24, believes the Rapture and God’s wrath occur on the same day because Genesis 7:11–13 says Noah entered the ark on the same day the flood began. This destroys the idea that the Rapture was imminent throughout church history, because the Tribulation begins by Antichrist making a covenant with Israel, and Israel did not exist as a nation until 1948 (pages 58–65). However, pretribulationists do not need to defend an interval between the beginning of the flood and the day in which Noah entered the ark. The pretribulational view does not see the Rapture of the Church but rather Christ’s return at the end of the Tribulation being discussed in Matthew 24. In the Olivet Discourse, Christ’s return as it relates to the future of Israel rather than the future of the Church is in view. The people “taken” at Christ’s return (Matthew 24:40,41) are described in Matthew 13:49–50 as the wicked who are separated from the righteous at the end of the age and thrown into the Lake of Fire. So there is no problem with the imminency of the Rapture. Paul included himself among those who might not die but still be alive at Christ’s return (“we shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed…” 1 Corinthians 15:51).
The Seal Judgments
On pages 139–152, Dr. Van Kampen relates the events described in Matthew 24 with the seal judgments of Revelation 6. I believe some of the details of his interpretation are flawed. For example, when the fourth seal is broken, the rider on a pale horse is given authority to kill 1/4 of the world with sword, famine, death (or pestilence) and by wild beasts. Dr. Van Kampen does not take these forms of tribulation at face value but argues they are part of Antichrist’s persecution. Nevertheless, this reviewer believes Dr. Van Kampen’s identification of the seal judgments beginning at the start of the seven-year Tribulation is correct! The difference in our views concerns whether or not the wrath of God is responsible for all of the seal judgments or only the last. Throughout his book, Dr. Van Kampen distinguishes between the wrath of Satan (and the Antichrist) on the one hand, and the wrath of God on the other. On page 56 this distinction is considered crucial. But there are times when both God and evil are responsible for events. In Acts 2:23 Peter tells us that responsibility for Christ’s death includes both God’s determined counsel and the wicked hands of men. In 2 Corinthians 12:7 we learn that Paul’s thorn in the flesh came from God (who gave it so Paul would not become exalted above measure because of the many revelations he had received) and from (a messenger of) Satan. Thus the persecution by Antichrist may be used by God to prepare Israel to recognize her Savior.
In any case, Dr. Van Kampen does not see God’s wrath revealed until after the sixth seal (see chart on page 164). He quotes Revelation 6:17 where, when the sixth seal is broken, the world leaders cry for the rocks to hide them from the One who sits on the throne and from the Lamb because, “the great day of their wrath has come.” If one took this text at face value, he would say that with the breaking of the sixth seal, the world leaders recognize that the great day of God’s wrath has come. But since Dr. Van Kampen doesn’t believe God’s wrath is poured out until the seventh seal, he argues “the aorist tense is, generally speaking, timeless” (page 153) and thus probably means here that the day of God’s wrath is about to come (pages 153,154). In response, it should be noted that when the aorist tense is used in the indicative (as it is here) it is not timeless but usually indicates past time. Dana and Mantey state, “It has no essential temporal significance, its time relations being found only in the indicative, where it is used as past” (A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament by H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey [NY: The Macmillan Company, 1927), page 193) while Wallace says, “In the indicative, the aorist usually indicates past time” (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics by Daniel B. Wallace [Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996], page 555).
Furthermore, Revelation 6:17 gives the perspective of the world leaders. God’s view is different: the sealed book contains divine judgment upon the world, and the breaking of the seals unleashes God’s wrath. In Revelation 5:1 the sealed book is in the right hand of the One sitting upon the throne, and only the Lord Jesus is found worthy to take it and break the seals to pronounce God’s judgment (Revelation 5:2–7). As Dr. Van Kampen himself states, “The biblical teaching concerning end times primarily has to do with the judgment and wrath of God against the unrighteous world. In fact, the book of Revelation is almost entirely about God’s wrath. When the angel asks, ‘Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?’ (Rev. 5:2), the answer is, ‘the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah’ (v. 5), whom John describes to his readers as ‘a Lamb’ (v. 6), a reference to Jesus Christ” (page 51). If the seal judgments begin at the start of the Tribulation (as Dr. Van Kampen and I both believe is true) and if God’s wrath begins to be poured with the first seal (as Revelation 5 teaches) and if the Rapture occurs before God’s wrath is poured out (as Dr. Van Kampen and I both believe is true) then the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation begins.
The “Church” and the “Elect”
In the Olivet Discourse [which Dr. Van Kampen uses as the model by which to evaluate all other New Testament eschatological passages] the word “church” is not used. In pondering that fact he concludes: “It will be the church in general that will fall away into apostasy in the last days. It is the elect of God (the saints) who will endure Antichrist’s persecution. That is precisely why terms such as ‘the elect’ and ‘the saints’ are used instead of the word church to describe the faithful who will choose death over compromise!” (page 81). In contrast to this understanding of “church,” the New Testament uses “church” in a Christian sense to describe true believers in Christ. But “church” is not used in Matthew 24 because it is not part of our Lord’s teaching here. Daniel 9:24–27 says “70 weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city.” Daniel’s “holy city” is Jerusalem and his “people” are Israel! The 70th “week” is the seven-year tribulation period, divided in the middle by the breaking of the covenant (v 27). This is the same period described in Matthew 24. The “end” half of this period begins when one can see “the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place” (Matthew 24:14,15).
“Church” is used in Revelation, chapters 1–3 and 22, but not in chapters 4–21. Dr. Van Kampen gives the same explanation as previously stated (pages 133-137). One has only to read carefully the letters our Lord wrote to these seven churches (Revelation 2 and 3) to realize that this explanation is not acceptable here, either. “Church” is not found in Revelation 4–18 because these chapters describe events on earth during the seven-year Tribulation, and the Church is not present. In Revelation 19, when Christ returns, the Church is seen as the wife of the Lamb (v 7 cf. Ephesians 5:22–32). In Revelation 20, the doom of the devil (vv 1-10) and the destiny of the lost (vv 11–15) are described. In Revelation 21, the redeemed of all the ages are classified in their distinct groupings. Proof: (1) in verse 3 “people” is literally “peoples;” (2) in verse 12, the gates of the New Jerusalem have the names of the 12 tribes of Israel written on them whereas in verse 14 the foundations of that city have the names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb written on them; and (3) in verses 24 and 26, believing nations retain their ethnic glory.
In fact, if you were to look up every verse in the New Testament where “church” is found you would discover it refers either to the Church which is Christ’s Body (Ephesians 1:22,23) or to local congregations composed of “saints” (even when described as “carnal”—1 Corinthians 1:2; 3:1ff). Thus the “church” of the Thessalonians is “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:1) and their “election” is known by Paul (1 Thessalonians 1:4), while the congregation at Ephesus is said to be acquired (or purchased) by Christ’s blood (Acts 20:28).
The Rapture in 2 Thessalonians
First, contrary to Dr. Van Kampen (pp 117,118), the order in 2 Thessalonians 1:4–8 is not persecution [in the Tribulation] followed by the Rapture. The persecution and afflictions the Thessalonians experienced must not be identified with the events of the Tribulation.
Second, contrary to Dr. Van Kampen (p 120, footnote # 3) the Greek construction does not show the apostasy and the revealing of the Antichrist to be a single event. While Moffat (Expositor’s Greek Testament, IV:48) thinks they “form a single phenomenon,” Hiebert rejects this suggestion, saying, “The two verbs, emphatic by position, serve to distinguish the events” (The Thessalonian Epistles, Moody Press, p 305). My point is the Greek construction does not require Dr. Van Kampen’s interpretation.
Third, and finally, contrary to Dr. Van Kampen (p 125), the restrainer is not Michael the Archangel. He will accompany Christ in His descent at the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:16). The one restraining “that wicked [one]” (v 8) must be more powerful than he, yet the wicked one’s coming is “after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (v 9). Only a member of the Godhead has that kind of power. Michael doesn’t. When disputing with the devil, Michael respected Satan’s authority——contrary to the false teachers Jude writes against, who had no respect for anyone’s authority (Jude 8–10).
All three Persons of the Godhead are omnipresent. In this sense they cannot “come” or “leave.” But in terms of residency, the Father is “in heaven,” (Matthew 6:9) and Christ is at the Father’s right hand (Hebrews 1:3). But the Holy Spirit “came” to reside in the bodies of church age believers on the Day of Pentecost (John 7:37–39; 14:16,,17). He “came” to create the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). And if this is the sense in which He “came,” it is also the sense in which He is “taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). The Holy Spirit came to create the Church which is Christ’s Body and to indwell those believers who compose that Body (Ephesians 1:13,14, 22, 23), and He leaves when the Church He indwells is caught away! Then, and only then, is the wicked, lawless one revealed by the making of a seven-year covenant (v 8). Even Dr. Van Kampen recognizes that “the seven-year tribulation period will begin when this man who becomes Antichrist makes a seven-year treaty with Israel” (p 38). That man cannot be revealed until the Holy Spirit is removed in the Rapture of the Church. This makes the Rapture both prewrath and pretribulational! 
 If you‘ve read his materials you would know what I’m talking about. MacPherson actually blames proponents of the PreTrib rapture for all of his misfortunes, beginning with his expulsion from Bible college, a drunken binge in Mexico, a car accident, his mom’s death, his sister’s inability to have more children, the demonic possession of his dog, and all his father’s woes.
 MacPherson’s allegations are outlandish to say the least. He incessantly pounds the drum that all who teach a PreTrib rapture are somehow culpable in the death of millions of Christians worldwide (especially the Chinese) that had been taught the rapture and suffered martyrdom! The fact is, Christians of every age- whether or not they have believed the PreTrib rapture- have suffered persecution, including today at the hands of islamic savages. While MacPherson deems it unfair that God would spare us what others were not spared begs the notion God will have to resurrect every person in history who was not vigorously and viciously persecuted or martyred. This is simply one of their most desperate- and may I add, deceptive- attempts at discrediting the PreTrib position. MacPherson and his minions should be ashamed of themselves.
 Titles include “The Incredible Cover-Up”, “The Great Rapture Hoax”, “The Rapture Plot”, ad nauseum.
 Since our opponents’ case is weak, they grab for straws. One tactic they love to employ is the notion that “rapture” isn’t found in the Bible as if that would disqualify it as a doctrine. We remind them neither is the word Bible in the Scriptures. Rapture is transliterated from the Latin repere or rapto found in 1 Thess. 4:17 where the King James renders it “caught up.”
 The outrageous nature of MacPherson’s prevarications have increased over time as books emerge under his name charging new cover ups that unbiased scholarship finds laughably ludicrous. Frank Marotta of according2prophecy.org writes: His latest book is The Rapture Plot. It claims to reveal “. . . the most astounding historical revisionism of the past century” (p. 138). The plot is that brethren scholar William Kelly used his periodical The Bible Treasury to conceal that J.N. Darby took the pretribulation rapture from the Irvingites. This was accomplished by alleged misrepresentations of Irvingite prophetic views in Kelly’s 1889-1890 articles on the Catholic Apostolic Church. In these same articles Kelly is alleged to have created a smoke screen by emphasizing Irvingite heterodoxy. Then in 1903 (13 years later), having discredited the Irvingites, Kelly was able to credit Mr. Darby with pretribulationism in his article, “The Rapture of the Saints, Who Suggested It, or rather on what Scripture?” This “plot” is considerably more dull than his Margaret Macdonald material and is equally lacking in any substance. That an orthodox Christian such as William Kelly should write articles exposing a contemporary heterodox sect should surprise us no more than a Christian periodical of today printing articles exposing Mormonism. Nor is it shocking that an ardent pretribulationist as Kelly would defend the history and doctrine of the rapture. We fail to see any plot at all.
 The rise in belief in the pre-tribulation rapture is often wrongly attributed to a 15-year-old Scottish-Irish girl named Margaret McDonald who was of the first to receive a (alleged) spiritual baptism under a Pentecostal awakening in Scotland. In 1830, she had a vision of the end times which describes a post-tribulation view of the rapture that was first published in 1840. It was published again in 1861, but two important passages demonstrating a post-tribulation view were removed to encourage confusion concerning the timing of the rapture. The two removed segments were, “This is the fiery trial which is to try us. – It will be for the purging and purifying of the real members of the body of Jesus” and “The trial of the Church is from Antichrist. It is by being filled with the Spirit that we shall be kept” [Hommel, Jason. “Margaret MacDonald’s Vision” – Jason Hommel’s Bible Prophecy Study on the Pre Tribulation Rapture. Grass Valley, California. Retrieved 23 January 2011. Quotes the account in The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets In the Catholic Apostolic Church (1861).]
 “It is only with some difficulty that one can identify what MacPherson calls her ‘pretribulationist’ teaching in the transcript of 1840, and when in 1861 Norton quoted from her prophecy he omitted the passage which referred to ‘the fiery trial’ which ‘will be for the purging and purifying of the real members of the body of Jesus’—a passage which clearly assumes that Christians will go through the tribulation.” [THE TRIBULATION OF CONTROVERSY: A REVIEW ARTICLE Timothy C. F. Stunt]
 Edward Irving was a Scottish clergyman, generally regarded as the main figure behind the foundation of the Catholic Apostolic Church which believed in modern day apostles and sign gifts. In other words they were charismatics. [THE TRIBULATION OF CONTROVERSY: A REVIEW ARTICLE Timothy C. F. Stunt]
 Here’s a few problems. First, Miss MacDonald’s “prophecy” doesn’t contain any elements related to a pre-trib rapture [Read her prophecy and you’ll find she believed in several raptures and that the church would suffer under Antichrist]. Therefore, in order to get his theory in line with the narrative, he had to conflate the two accounts of Margaret’s vision. Second, no one has ever demonstrated from actual facts of history that Darby was influenced by MacDonald’s “prophecy” even if it had contained pre-trib elements – which it certainly did not. There is evidence that Darby heard about Miss MacDonald’s strange vision and labeled it demonic. Third, according to biographer historian Roy Huebner R. A. Huebner, “Precious Truths Revived and Defended Through J. N. Darby”, Vol. 1 (Morganville, N. J.: Present Truth Publishers, 1991), Darby clearly held to an early form of the PreTrib rapture by January 1827. This is a full three years before MacPherson’s claim of 1830. John Walvoord has said, “The whole controversy as aroused by Dave MacPherson’s claims has so little supporting evidence … one wonders how he can write his book with a straight face. Pretribulationists should be indebted to Dave MacPherson for exposing the facts, namely, that there is no proof that MacDonald … originated the pretribulation rapture teaching.” More information available at
 This is another desperate and disingenuous deception from the other side. Roy Huebner documented from Darby’s writings beginning as early as 1827 that he was teaching a PreTrib rapture.
 And this they want you to believe is scholarly reporting.
 Bray, The Origin of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Teaching, pp. 24-25, 28.
 Drs. Thomas Ice and Gerald Stanton among them.
 Post tribulation rapture author Ernest Sandeen wrote: “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. Others include Robert Reiter, Ian Rennie, William Bell, John Bray, and Timothy Weber to name a few. Source: http://www.pre-trib.org/articles/view/part-2-myths-of-origin-rapture
 One of the most successful strategies Josef Goebbels facilitated in the Nazi rise to power over Germany was the “Big Lie” propaganda ploy. Briefly, he believed if a lie was big enough and told often enough the people would eventually embrace it. The fact that Hitler slaughtered 6 million Jews virtually uncontested by Germans proves just how powerful this strategy is.
 Excuse my reiteration of some of this material, but it is vital that you recognize and refute the prejudicial arguments these people have invented. 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.” 2) “During his convalescence JND learned that he ought daily to expect his Lord’s return.” 3) “In 1827 JND understood the fall of the church. . . ‘the ruin of the Church.'” 4) Darby also was beginning to see a gap of time between the rapture and the second coming by 1827. 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 rapture hinges.” [Dr Thomas Ice- https://www.raptureready.com/featured/ice/tt11.html%5D
 You may request Dr. Mike’s booklet, The Olivet Discourse in its Jewish Setting.
 Some include: Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice (Psalms 50:3-5). When the LORD shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory (Psalms 102:16). For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain (Isaiah 26:21). And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
(Zechariah 14:4); etc.
 The Body of Christ was unheard of for another 20 years. Forcing Christ’s Kingdom expositions for Israel on the church (ie the Sermon on the Mount) always leads to disastrous results and can be seen in cults such as Seventh Day Adventists.
 The tribulation is a ubiquitous term that has become a well-known doctrine. Prophecy is for Israel and the tribulation exists purely as prophecy. It was well known by the prophets (Deut. 4:30) so it was never a part of the mystery. That being said, there isn’t a prophecy or verse for that matter anywhere in Scripture: (1) clearly consigning the mystery Body of Christ to the time of Jacob’s trouble, or (2) revealing her as being on earth for a single hour during this time [unless two terms used for Israel, “elect” and “saints” are pulled from their context to prove something that simply is not provable in any other fashion].
 Dr. Henry C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing, 1977, p.441
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 An evaluation of Dr. Robert D. Van Kampen’s book, The Rapture Question Answered. By Myron J. Houghton, Ph.D., Th.D. Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, a division of Baker Book House, 1997)
[i] The PreTrib Rapture Teaching is NOT NEW
After animated author and apologist Doc Marquis had his fill of this feckless flimflam he wrote, “The blatant lie (knowingly or unknowingly) that the “Pre-Tribulation Rapture” of the Church is a new concept that can only be traced back to 1830 is simply that … a lie! I shall now present to you good people another literary list and, this one will prove, once and for all, that the “Pre-Tribulation Rapture” of the Church is “not” a new concept, but was a teaching that came directly from the Apostles themselves (dating back) “before” 1830” . . . to the 1st Century A.D.”
1) 1792 – Thomas Scott – he taught that the righteous will be carried to Heaven where they will be secure until the time of the judgment is over.
2) 1763 – James Macknight – he also taught that the righteous will be carried to heaven until the judgment is over with.
3) 1748 – John Gill (Commentary on the New Testament) – teaches of the imminent return of Christ, firstly in Rapture, and then He will return again to judge the earth (Armageddon).
4) 1744 – Morgan Edwards (founder of the Ivy League School, Brown University) wrote of his “Pre-Tribulation Rapture” beliefs.
5) 1738 – Phillip Doddrige (Commentary on the New Testament) teaches along the same lines of John Gill; a “Pre-Tribulation Rapture” perspective.
6) 1687 – Peter Jurieu – (“Approaching Deliverance of the Church”) Christ would return during the Rapture and take His saints to Heaven and later return at the Battle of Armageddon.
7) 1674 – 1748 – Isaac Watts (known as the Father of the English Hymn) wrote of his “Pre-Tribulation Rapture” belief. (As a side note, Isaac Watts was solely responsible for writing over 1,000 Christian hymns if I recall the numbers correctly. Study his life because it was truly a miraculous one by all definitions of the word).
8) 1674 – Thomas Collier – makes reference in the belief to the “Pre-Tribulation Rapture”.
9) 1532 – 1591 – Francisco Rivera wrote of his “Pre-Tribulation Rapture” of the Church beliefs
10) 431 – 1500 – Any mention of Pre-Tribulation (Millennial) Rapture of the Church perspectives are outlawed by the Catholic Church and deemed heretical and punishable by death!!!
11) 431 – The Council of Ephesus; the Catholic Church decrees and condemns Pre-Millennial views as heresy. Books and such are destroyed or altered.
The following all wrote of the “Pre-Tribulation Rapture” of the Church:
12) 354 – 430 – Augustine, Bishop of North Africa
13) 306 – 373 – Ephraem of Nisibus
14) ? – 204 – Victorinus, Bishop of Petau
15) 200 – 258 – Cyrian
16) 170 – 236 – Hippolytus of Rome
17) 150 – 272 – Apocalypse of Elijah (an Extra-Biblical book)
18) 120 – 202 – Ireaneus (“Against Heresies”)
19) 36 – 108 – Ignatius of Antioch, the Third Bishop and Patriarch of Antioch (who as a student of John the Apostle) – His “Letters of Extra-Biblical works are:
- Letter to the Ephesians
- Letter to the Magnesians
- Letter to the Trallians
- Letter to the Romans
- Letter to the Philadelphians
- Letter to the Smyrnaeans
- Letter to Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna
- ? – 99 A.D. – Clement of Rome, “Letter to the Corinthians” also known as “I Clement” (an Extra-Biblical book).
John Bray’s $500 Folly
Arrogant and antagonistic describes the majority of the anti-PreTrib gang I’ve encountered, personally and by reading their books and blogs. Most are so certain of MacPherson’s unproven allegation of an 1830 rapture origin they link their entire journalistic integrity to it by making outlandish statements that have been refuted hundreds of times by PreTrib rapture scholars.
One of the more foolhardy stunts came from John L. Bray, a Southern Baptist evangelist, who offered $500 to anyone who could prove that someone taught the rapture doctrine prior to MacDonald’s 1830 vision. Interestingly, Bray displayed a modicum of integrity when his own research proved himself wrong. He wrote, “Then my own research indicated that it was Emmanuel Lacunza, a Jesuit Catholic priest, who in the 1812 book The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty, first taught this theory.”
However, Bray – like those of his stubborn ilk – was determined to win the bet and he stuck his neck out again with another $500 offer to anyone who could provide a documented statement earlier than Lacunza’s 1812 writings. Apparently he had to cough up the 500 bucks. I quote him again: “I offered $500 to anyone who would give a documented statement earlier than Lacunza’s time which taught a two-stage coming of Christ separated by a stated period of time.” No one claimed that offer until someone found writings that forced Bray to write the following: “Now I have the Photostat copies of a book published in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1788 but written in 1742-1744 in England, which taught the pretribulation rapture before Lacunza.”
[ii] Dave MacPherson’s Book “The Rapture Plot” – weighed
and found wanting
by Frank Marotta
Since the early 1970’s, Dave MacPherson has aggressively attacked the pretribulation rapture by attributing its origin to Margaret Macdonald, whom MacPherson considers to be occult influenced. He claims J.N. Darby derived the pretribulation rapture from her and this was done secretly, lest the true origin of the rapture be discovered. MacPherson develops this idea in his books The Incredible Cover-Up and The Great Rapture Hoax. It has been successfully demolished in works by R. A. Huebner, Thomas Ice, and Gerald Stanton,1 to name a few.
MacPherson’s Seventh Version
(One of) MacPherson’s latest (books) is The Rapture Plot. It claims to reveal “. . . the most astounding historical revisionism of the past century” (p. 138). The plot is that brethren scholar William Kelly used his periodical The Bible Treasury to conceal that J.N. Darby took the pretribulation rapture from the Irvingites. This was accomplished by alleged misrepresentations of Irvingite prophetic views in Kelly’s 1889-1890 articles on the Catholic Apostolic Church. In these same articles Kelly is alleged to have created a smoke screen by emphasizing Irvingite heterodoxy. Then in 1903 (13 years later), having discredited the Irvingites, Kelly was able to credit Mr. Darby with pretribulationism in his article, “The Rapture of the Saints, Who Suggested It, or rather on what Scripture?” This “plot” is considerably more dull than his Margaret Macdonald material and is equally lacking in any substance. That an orthodox Christian such as William Kelly should write articles exposing a contemporary heterodox sect should surprise us no more than a Christian periodical of today printing articles exposing Mormonism. Nor is it shocking that an ardent pretribulationist as Kelly would defend the history and doctrine of the rapture. We fail to see any plot at all.
In our research on Catholic Apostolic and Irvingite works, we have never found a claim that anyone outside their group “stole” their doctrines. Consider the Catholic Apostolic apologist William Bramley-Moore, a contemporary of William Kelly. In his work The Church’s Forgotten Hope, (a significant work never discussed by MacPherson) Bramley-Moore skips over Margaret Macdonald and credits John Asgill in 1703 as “. . . the only individual who, since the Reformation [until 1830] had given a clarion testimony” to the hope of translation (p. 251)! We will not manufacture a “plot” or “cover-up” regarding the failure of MacPherson and others to credit Asgill. (Asgill taught that individual translation was possible, similar to Enoch or Elijah. His view is distinct from pretribulationism.) More relevant to our discussion, Bramley-Moore never claimed the brethren or anyone else “stole” the Irvingite prophetical views.
Recently, the most extensive critical analysis ever produced on Irvingite doctrine declared that they were still primarily historicist, while Darby and the Brethren had become futurist. Further, Columba G. Flegg notes that the Brethren teaching on the rapture and the present invisible and spiritual nature of the church, were in sharp contrast to Catholic Apostolic teaching, . . . There were thus very significant differences between the two eschatologies, and attempts to see any direct influence of one upon the other seem unlikely to succeed-they had a number of common roots, but are much more notable for their points of disagreement. Several writers [referring specifically to MacPherson] have attempted to trace Darby’s secret rapture theory to a prophetic statement associated with Irving, but their arguments do not stand up to serious criticism. Source: http://www.according2prophecy.org/macphers.html
[iii] More MacPherson Mythology
If you’ve read any of Dave’s materials, you know he makes some outlandish claims then vilifies all who disagree with his questionable conclusions generally in the form of a relentless unchristian assault. It begins by impugning the person’s character and credentials and ends with condemning their souls to Hell forever. Egregious assumptions and accusations often earmark a desperate person on the wrong side of a debate. Such is the case with the tribulation and the rapture. Those of us holding to the historic Biblical position (see Appendices) of a rapture before the tribulation are verbally vandalized by unscrupulous men thinking nothing of consigning souls to hell simply for daring to impugn their “creative” scholarship with facts. Think about the far-reaching scope of these unsavory and unchristian epithets implicating Bible scholars throughout history who taught the Word with integrity Paul, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Hippolytus. More recently, John Nelson Darby, CI Scofield, Charles Spurgeon, DL Moody, HA Ironside, RA Torrey, Arno C. Gaebelein, J. Dwight Pentecost, Harold Willmington, Ed Hindson, Zola Levitt, Renald Showers, Randell Price, David Hocking, John Walvoord, Mark Hitchcock, Tommy Ice, Chuck Missler, Lehman Strauss, Grant Jeffrey, Hal Lindsey, JR Church, Dave Hunt, Gary Stearman, Tim LaHaye, Jack Van Impe and on and on. And while this impressive list does not in itself prove the dispensational, PreTrib position, it certainly makes a strong statement in favor of the historic PreTrib doctrine especially when compared with the cadre of unfamiliar names attached to the roster of those opposing it.
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