By Dave MacPherson

All of my books since 1973 have stated that Rev. Edward Irving and his followers (Irvingites) - as well as Margaret Macdonald - taught a pretribulation rapture before John Darby did.

Margaret's 117-line pretrib "revelation" account (which, by the way, contains 59 Bible verses or parts of verses - about one in every other line) was admittedly not as detailed as the many articles in "The Morning Watch" (Irvingite journal) which from 1829 to 1833 clearly and extensively portrayed a pretrib rapture. Naturally my Darby-exalting critics gang up on Margaret so that they won't have to face up to overwhelming evidence that the Irvingites did in fact precede Darby!

(While I'm at it - I wish now that I had never used terms like Margaret's "revelation" or "vision" even though others have. I should have referred only to her "view" or "Scriptural interpretation." If I had done so, my opponents wouldn't have had an excuse to associate "occult" or "witch" or "demon" with her totally Biblical discussion while playing the current rapture debate "game of gossip"!)
Scofield and Ironside are among the Darby defenders who have boldly concluded, minus evidence, that pretrib rapturism never existed in Irvingite circles.

Even Ernest Sandeen's "The Roots of Fundamentalism" (p. 64f) asserted that Irving and his followers didn't teach anything resembling a Darbyesque secret, pretrib rapture. (His conclusion was based on only two unrelated (!) prophetic utterances which were spoken many months after pretrib was first clearly taught in Irving's journal in Sep. 1830!) J. Barton Payne responded to Sandeen by writing that "MacPherson has once and for all overthrown Ernest Sandeen's assertions that the Irvingites never 'advocated any doctrine resembling the secret rapture' and that to connect J. N. Darby and early dispensationalism with Irving's church is 'a groundless and pernicious charge'....For serious students of the history of dispensationalism the study of MacPherson's discoveries has become a must." (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Winter, 1974)

R. A. Huebner, a militant member of the Darbyist Plymouth Brethren, added his own name to the Irvingism-bashing list and even talked Walvoord, Ryrie, LaHaye and some other pretrib leaders into joining it. In his 1973 book Huebner actually stated: "The Irvingites (1828-1834) never held the pretribulation rapture or any 'any-moment' views." His 1991 book repeated this by declaring that "the Irvingite system was a complex" that can be found "in posttribulational writers."

But the champion Irvingism-basher, who isn't bashful, is Thomas Ice whose Darby-shielding darts are multiplied and repeated on the internet, world without end. He makes sure that readers of his "When Did J. N. Darby Discover the Rapture?" piece will discover his repetition that "Irving never held to pretribulationism." In his "Myths of the Origin of Pretribulationism - Part II" he states that "One of Dave McPherson's strangest claims is that Edward Irving and the Irvingites taught a pre-trib rapture." And he even speaks disparagingly of "two British theologians" (Mark Patterson and Andrew Walker) who have written that "it is incontrovertible that Irving held to a pretribulation doctrine in a form that is developed and remarkably similar to contemporary dispensational views." (!)

My book "The Rapture Plot" (available online) includes many quotes from Irvingites proving that they taught a pretrib rapture as well as pretribulationally-correct imminence. Here are just a few examples from several issues of "The Morning Watch":
"Philadelphia" is described as worthy Christians who will be raptured before "the great tribulation" (TMW, Sep. 1830, p. 510)
"...the great tribulation from which those dead in Christ, and those who shall then be alive and looking for him, shall be exempted, by being caught up to meet the Lord in the air...." (TMW, June 1831, p. 284)

Walvoord's, LaHaye's, and Ice's "any-momentness" is clearly seen in this Irvingite journal which stated: "...we miss the true object of faith and hope in the coming of the Lord, not only when we overleap it altogether, but when we interpose any screen whatever; when we look for any event of persecution or tribulation, for any combination of kings, any gathering of people, any manifestation of Antichrist." (TMW, Dec. 1831, p. 253)

One writer spoke of "the translation for the living...of which we may daily expect the accomplishment...." He added: "During this most horrible time of the reign of the last Antichrist, the risen and translated saints shall be with Christ...." (TMW, Mar. 1832, pp. 12-14)
John Tudor, TMW editor, said that "some of these elect ones shall...be left in the great tribulation...after the translation of the saints...." He added that there is "nothing further to expect before the actual coming...." (TMW, Sep. 1832, pp. 11-12)
"the literal time of 1260 days...does not commence till the moment of the translation of the saints...." (TMW, Sep. 1832, p. 48)

It should be pointed out that during pretrib dispensationalism's earliest development, there were those who quickly changed from the prevailing posttrib historicism to pretrib futurism, some who changed later on, and some who never changed. Naturally Darby-guardsmen such as Huebner and Ice have selectively focused on historicist Irvingites and purposely covered up pretrib futurists among the same British group to make it appear to their trusting readers that the Irvingites were totally pretrib-deficient!

My first paper on Biblical prophecy was written in 1968. If I could have known beforehand that Darby protectors would either ignore, smear, or pseudo-scholarly skip over Margaret's main point (a rapture before Antichrist's revealing) and deviously quote lines only before and after it (what Ice does repeatedly), I would have focused on the incredible quality and quantity of the output of the innovative Irvingites - and brought in Margaret only as the one they claimed as their inspiration.

Even William Kelly, Darby's editor, knew that for 60 years evangelicalism had credited Irvingism, and not Darbyism, with pretribism. Which is why Kelly (while noting "the early prophesyings and tongues in Scotland" but adding that "we may pass these over") focused on Irvingite writings, and not Margaret's, in a lengthy series (1889-1890) in his own journal. Readers of "The Rapture Plot" know that Kelly, in Ice-like fashion, made so many dishonest changes while analyzing Irvingism in a supposedly fair and balanced way that evangelicalism, unable to examine hard-to-locate Irvingite writings, eventually accepted Kelly's revisionism, the goal of which was to project Darby as the pretrib rapture originator as well as the "father of dispensationalism" - and we know how well Kelly was successful!

I have focused on pretrib rapture beginnings for 40 years and have offered $1000 if anyone can show where I have ever dishonestly concealed or changed anything in any important rapture-related document. Unlike my opponents, my book royalties have always gone not to any individual but to a nonprofit corporation which has never paid any salary to anyone. While you're wondering if you should obtain my 300-page book "The Rapture Plot," I invite you to read my many internet articles including "Famous Rapture Watchers," "Pretrib Rapture Diehards," "Humbug Huebner," "Thomas Ice (Bloopers)" and "Thomas Ice - Hired Gun," "X-Raying Margaret," "Deceiving and Being Deceived," and "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty."

Links to Dave's Books

 Incredible Cover Up

 The Rapture Plot

 The unbelievable pre-trib origin: The recent discovery of a well-known theory's beginning, and its incredible cover-up


 The late great pre-trib rapture