Book Review

The Rapture Plot

There are many books on the market that do excellent jobs tracing the history of what has been called, "Fundamentalism," as propagated by Brethren teachers such as H.A. Ironside, W.E. Vine and C.H. Mackintosh--Loizeaux Brothers could be considered the "official" publishers of Brethren material, and popularized by men such as D.L. Moody and C.I. Scofield.

In an extremely well documented book, The Rapture Plot, Dave MacPherson, by researching the original British documents, traces the origin of modern millenarianism--which centers around teaching of a "secret rapture of the saints," a "church/Israel `distinction,'" and a "literal rather than figurative or spiritualized fulfillments" of prophecy. [Plot, 198, Roots, 13. We have provided some other facts and sources that also document what MacPherson is presenting, filling in some blank places. Publishers of other books available upon request: e mail is easiest.] MacPherson shows that the ideas did not originate with the Brethren though the Brethren tried desperately--plotted--to cover up the source and credit Darby with the new ideas, hence, "The Rapture Plot." After all, how many men are willing to admit they are following a woman's teaching given while she was in a trance? [Plot, 93.]

As early as 1825, Edward Irving was "declaring that the `first- -fruits' are `gathered before the harvest which immediately precedeth (sic) the treading of the wine-press of wrath.'" "[T]he Irvingites clearly taught pretrib as early as September 1830." [Plot, 199, 151.] The reader might be interested to know that after Irving was locked out of his Presbyterian Church in 1832 where tongues and "supernatural" healings first occurred, he founded the Catholic Apostolic Church with "Drummond, Cardale, Taplin, and about eight hundred others..."[Who Was Who, 211.] Irving was an extremely popular British speaker: As he traveled the land, his prophetic views drew great crowds. Darby did not come out of the Church of England until at the very earliest 1827 (but more like 1830), and Irving was already teaching the basic doctrine latter claimed by Darby. "[E]arlier 19th century writers had uniformly agreed that pretrib was Irvingism's important contribution and hallmark..." William Kelly (1820-1906), with Darby's permission, "edited"-- actually, revised--Darby's works to make them read as though the millenarian ideas were new with Darby:

1. The Irvingites publicly taught a pretribulation rapture long before Darby did.

"2. The underlying "truths" (such as the church/Israel "dichotomy") that supposedly led Darby to pretrib were taught earlier by others, one of whom was led to pretrib by these "truths." The same "truths" were used for support only after pretrib was established. The Irvingites were led to pretrib by Old Testament and New Testament symbols including the Jewish feasts, the two witnesses, and the man child -- symbols adopted by Darby latter on.

"3. If Darby had been the first to clearly teach pretrib or "truths" leading to it, he would have had no need to overstate his earliest development when reminiscing in later years. Later 19th century scholars, aware that Irvingism never needed later reminiscences to "clarify" its own early development, uniformly credited the Irvingites with dispensationalism's chief features including the pretrib rapture.

"4. Twentieth century Darby defenders, evidently dissatisfied with Darby's attempts to embellish and exaggerate his own earliest words, have overstated even what he overstated."[Plot, 136.]

MacPherson reveals "William Kelly's "plot," his masterpiece of deception," viz., Kelly edited Darby's works to "prove" Darby actually originated pretrib theories. [Ibid, 155ff.] Thus when one quotes Darby, he knows not how much is Kelly_s added and/or changed words and how much is Darby_s original words. Writing in 1902, Robert Cameron was dogmatic in saying that from Polycarp to Irving there was not a hint of Irvingite, i.e., pretrib, doctrine, and that it "is distinctively a doctrine of the `Brethren'..." [Plot, 161, 156, 173, 172.] Cameron used Robert Baxter_s 1833 book in which Baxter claimed the Irvingite pre-trib rapture doctrine was "a work of Satan," [Ibid, 174. Letters, I.397, 406.] McPherson lists many men who firmly held that pretrib originated with Irving, not with Darby nor the Brethren, e.g. Robert Baxter (1833), S.P. Tregells (1855), Robert Norton (1861), Thomas Croskey (1872), William Reid (1880), &c. Brethren writers, especially Darby, edited existing writings of past saints--even the Reformers- -and hymns to support their theories.[Plot, 145, 146. Letters, I.413; III.45.] Moreover, Darby changed meanings of words, passages of Scripture and even the Scripture itself--he issued new translations in several languages, French, German, English, &c.--to support his prophetic understandings. [Letters, I.55, 380, 382, 402--he convinced US Christians that the OT is not for today, 534; II.32, 48, 65, 420, and other passages too numerous to mention.]

For example, Darby defined "sovereign grace" as a God given ability to remain heavenly minded, detached from earthly things. [Writings, II.381, 425.] Darby readily admitted that his doctrine of withdrawal and soon coming of Christ changed multitudes of Scriptures. Thus he studied, translated and taught all Scripture in light of the new doctrines he propagated around the world. The new "Bible Reading" method of study developed by the Brethren, and popularized in America by D.L. Moody, permitted Scripture to be "studied" apart from its context. His new doctrines changed the traditional understanding of multitudes of Scriptures as he intentionally went against the orthodox Christian doctrine of his day. [Ibid, II.493, 494.] Among other things, he boasted that his unique prophet views changed the entire book of Psalms. [Letters, I.243ff.; II.561.] Irving_s new ideas were presented and developed at prophecy conferences which took place first at Albury Park, 1826--repeated 1827 and 1828, and latter at Powerscourt, 1831--repeated 1832 and 1833. [Roots, 18-41.] Observe:

"... It was at Powerscourt that the teaching of a pretribulation rapture of the Church took shape. Tregelles, a member of the Brethren in these early days, tells us that the idea of a secret rapture at a secret coming of Christ had its origin in an "utterance" in Edward Irving's church, and that this was taken to be the voice of the Spirit. Tregelles says, "It was from that supposed revelation that the modern doctrine and the modern phraseology respecting it arose. It came not from Holy Scripture, but from that which falsely pretended to be the Spirit of God." This doctrine together with other important modifications of the traditional futuristic view were vigorously promoted by Darby, and they have been popularized by the writings of William Kelly." [Hope, 40, 41. Ladd footnotes his quote from Tregelles, "S.P. Tregelles, The Hope of Christ's Second Coming, first published in 1864, and now available at Ambassadors for Christ, Los Angeles, California."]

"... Set in impiety, the doctrine of the Lord's secret Coming, before the manifestation of the Man of Sin and before the Great Tribulation, was then first openly promulgated in England. It was adopted by the late J.N. Darby, and was caught up far and near, and hailed as enchanted teaching." ["E.P. Cachemaille, The Prophetic Outlook To-day (London: Morgan & Scott, 1918), pp. 19, 20." Quoted by MacPherson, Plot, 189.]

Though Irving "discovered" and developed the basic, modern millenarian ideas, the Irvingites were not the ones to spread them to the four corners of the earth: That was accomplished by the Brethren--extremely forceful, intelligent, talented and energetic young men such as J.N. Darby. Despite opposition from already established churches, Darby's ideas--gleaned from others and developed into his own unique system--overwhelmed the church at large around the world. [Plot, 109.] Pretrib has become to many the shibboleth that separates, and the essentials of the faith, e.g., the five Vs, have fallen into the realm of the unimportant. The reason, according to MacPherson, for the extreme antagonism toward those who do not hold to pretrib is "its tremendous fund-raising potential." [Ibid, 223.] MacPherson concludes:

"The real test is ahead. If pretrib promoters ignore or twist this book's documentation, and if their only bottom line is a continuing flow of funds, then I won't be surprised if God views them collectively as an "Achan" (Josh. 7) and allows a national or even international money collapse!

"I'm not expressing any particular end-time view by saying this. I'm only stating the principle Jesus gave when He said that we can't put money on an equal level with serving God..."

The spirit of William Kelly lives on to defend the "Plot!"

Appendix A, following the above quote, alone makes the book worth the money: MacPherson documents many "copying errors" made by those defending the pretrib rapture's originator as Darby rather the Scottish lass who bordered on the cultic, Margaret McDonald. Some of the errors seriously misrepresent and/or change facts: gross errors from men such as Tim Lahay, R.A. Huebner, John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, John L. Bray, Hal Lindsey, Thomas Ice, Gerard Stanton and others. McPherson, documenting the "errors," shows how these men many times leave their readers believing things completely opposite of what the their quoted sources said and meant. One wonders how much money has been raised by telling folks, "The rapture might take place tonight, so give your money now: Don't leave it for the devil's crowd to spend." The love of money has led to some mighty strange doctrine.

[The Rapture Plot, by Dave MacPherson, Millennium III Publishers, Simpsonville, South Carolina, 1995. It can be ordered from: Central Christian Bookstore, 3131 S Archer Ave, Chicago, IL, 60608--$14.95. Many of the documents referred to by MacPherson are originals found only in Britain. Note that we are not refering to Chilasm; we will develop that doctrine at a latter time.]

Pastor Need


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