Thursday, July 27, 2006

Another Early Christian writer on the Rapture

Opponents of pretribulationism have often tried to "poison the well" by
contending that a pre-trib understanding of the Bible is novel and/or has
sprung from a polluted source. However, the last few years have witnessed
the discovery of voices from the past testifying to a two-stage return of
Christ. The latest pre-Darby voice to join the chorus, is that of an early
American Baptist pastor and educator, Morgan Edwards (1722-95).


Morgan Edwards was born May 9, 1722, in Trevethin parish, Wales, and after
education at Bristol College, began preaching in 1738. He served several
small Baptist congregations in England for seven years, before moving to
Cork, Ireland, where he pastored for nine years. Edwards immigrated to
America and in May 1761, became pastor of the Baptist Church in
1. After the Revolutionary War (He was the only known Baptist
clergy of Tory persuasion.), Edwards became an educator and the premier
Baptist historian of his day. His major work Materials Toward A History of
the Baptists is an important seminal work outlining American Baptist history
of the era. Edwards founded the first Baptist college in the Colonies, Rhode
Island College, which we know today as Brown University of the Ivy League.As
was typical of early American Colonists, Edwards experienced significant
tragedy in his life. He outlived two wives and most of his children. During
a "dark period" in his life, he ceased attending church, took to drink and
was excommunicated from his church. "After making repeated efforts to be
restored, he was received into the church on October 6, 1788, and thereafter
lived an exemplary life."
2. Baptist historian Robert Torbet described Edwards as a man of versatility,
being both a capable leader for many years and a historian of some importance.
In temperament he was eccentric and choleric.
. . . With all of his varied gifts, he was always evangelistic in spirit.
3. Another historian similarly says of Edwards:
Scholarly, laborious, warm-hearted, eccentric, choleric Morgan Edwards,
one of the most interesting of the early Baptist ministers of our country
and one of those most deserving of honor. His very faults had a leaning
toward virtues side, and in good works he was exceeded by none of his day,
if indeed by any of any day. . . . He was an able preacher and a good man,
but not always an easy man to get on with.

During his student days at Bristol Baptist Seminary in England (1742-44),
Morgan Edwards wrote an essay for eschatology class on his views of Bible
prophecy. This essay was later published in Philadelphia (1788) under the
following title: Two Academical Exercises on Subjects Bearing the following
Titles; Millennium, Last-Novelties. (This is actually one of the shorter
titles for a book published in his day.) The term in the title
"Last-Novelties" refers to what we would call today the eternal state;
"novelties" refers to the new conditions of the future new heavens and new
earth. Upon reading the 56 page work, it is clear that Edwards published it
unchanged from his student days. Thus, it represents a view developed by the
early 1740s.

Morgan Edwards taught some form of pretribulationism as can be gleaned from
the following statement in his book:

II. The distance between the first and second resurrection will be somewhat
more than a thousand years.

"I say, somewhat more --; because the dead saints will be raised, and the
living changed at Christ's "appearing in the air" (I Thes. iv. 17); and this
will be about three years and a half before the millennium, as we shall see
hereafter: but will he and they abide in the air all that time? No: they
will ascend to paradise, or to some one of those many "mansions in the
father's house" (John xiv. 2), and so disappear during the foresaid period
of time. The design of this retreat and disappearing will be to judge the
risen and changed saints; for "now the time is come that judgment must
begin," and that will be "at the house of God" (I Pet. iv. 17)... (p. 7; the
spelling of all Edwards quotes have been modernized)

What has Edwards said? Note the following:

a.. He believes that at least 1,003.5 years will transpire between

b.. He associates the first resurrection with the rapture in 1 Thess.
4:17, occurring at least 3.5 years before the start of the millennium (i.e.,
at least 3.5 years before the second coming of Christ at the start of the

c.. He associates the meeting of believers with Christ in the air and
returning to the Father's house with John 14:2, as do modern

d.. He sees believers disappearing during the time of the tribulation,
which he goes on to talk about in the rest of the section from which the
rapture statement is taken.

e.. He, like modern pretribulationists, links the time in heaven, during
the tribulation, with the "bema" judgment of believers.

The only difference, at least as far as the above statements go, between
current pretribulationism and Edwards is the time interval of 3.5 years
instead of 7. In fact, anti-pretribulationist John Bray wonders,

It would be interesting to know what, in those early years at the Academy,
led Edwards to his concept of a pre-tribulation rapture. One could almost
think he had been studying at one of our modern dispensational-entrenched
schools, the teaching is so similar to that which is being taught today.

It would be interesting to know what he studied at Bristol, but Edwards
makes it clear in the introduction that his views are not those normally
held in his day and that he was approaching eschatology with a literal
hermeneutic. Such an approach is said by modern pretribulationists to be the
primary determinative factor leading to pretribulationism. This is what J.N.
Darby claimed and so does Edwards before Darby.

I will do my possible: and in the attempt will work by a rule you have
often recommended, viz. "to take the scriptures in a literal sense, except
when that leads to contradiction or absurdity." . . . Very able men have
already handled the subject in a mystical, or allegorical, or spiritual way.
(pp. 5-6)

Historian John Moore, quoting from Rev. William Rogers' sermon at Edwards
funeral: "There was nothing uncommon in Mr. Edwards' person; but he
possessed an original genius." Thus, as an original thinker, Edwards, like
Darby, apparently saw his views flowing from a literal reading of the Bible.
Also, like Darby, Edwards developed these views early in life. Edwards was
between the ages of 20 and 22, while Darby was about 26 years old.

Edwards adds to his earlier rapture statement later when he says,

" Another event previous to the millennium will be the appearing of the son
of man in the clouds, coming to raise the dead saints and change the living,
and to catch them up to himself, and then withdraw with them, as observed
before. [i.e., p. 7] This event will come to pass when Antichrist be arrived
at Jerusalem in his conquest of the world; and about three years and a half
before his killing the witnesses and assumption of godhead. . . . "(p. 21)

It is clear that Edwards separates the rapture and the second coming from
the following statements:

"The last event and the event that will usher in the millennium, will
be the coming of Christ from paradise to earth, with all the saints he had
taken up thither (about three years and a half before) . . . (p. 24)
Millions and millions of saints will have been on earth from the days of
the first Adam, to the coming of the second Adam. All these will Christ
bring with him. The place where they will alight is the "Mount of Olives,
which is before Jerusalem on the east." Zech. xiv, 4. (p. 25)

Of interest is the fact that Edwards wrote 42 volumes of sermons, about 12
sermons per volume, that were never published. Other than his historical
writings and ecclesiastical helps, his essay on Bible prophecy was his only
other published work. It is significant that this essay, from his youth, was
published and not something else. This evidences that there was some
interest in his views on this subject. Such an interest would have surely
risen out of his bringing it to the attention of those to whom he
ministered. Yet, on the other hand, the book only went through one printing,
showing that all books on the rapture do not automatically become a number
one best seller. It could also reflect the fact that Baptists were not a
large denomination at this time in America. Nevertheless, Edwards' work on
Bible prophecy did have some circulation and exposed early Americans to many
of the ideas that would come to dominate Evangelicalism a century later.

Detractors of pretribulationism often want to say or imply that our view
cannot be found in the pages of the Bible and must have come from a deviant
source. Of course, we strongly object to such a notion and have taken great
pains over the years to show that the New Testament not only teaches
pretribulationism, but holds it forth as our "Blessed Hope"-a central focus
of faith. The bringing to light of Morgan Edwards' views of the rapture do
demonstrate (again) that a consistently literal approach to Bible
interpretation leads many to distinguish between Christ's coming in the air
for His bride and His return to earth with His saints. Edwards, along with
Pseudo-Ephraem's fourth century sermon (and perhaps others) make it clear
that, while Darby may have restored the pretrib rapture, he did not
originate it. Pretribulationism is found first in the New Testament and at
times throughout the history of the church. Maranatha!


1 "Edwards, Morgan" in John McClintock & James Strong, Cyclopedia of
Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Grand Rapids: Baker
Book House, 1981 [1867-87]), XII vols, III:69.

2 John S. Moore, "Morgan Edwards: Baptist Statesman," Baptist History and
Heritage (VI:1; January 1971), p. 31.

3 Robert G. Torbet, A History of the Baptists (Philadelphia: The Judson
Press, 1950), pp. 243-44.

4 Henry C. Vedder, A Short History of the Baptists (Philadelphia: The
American Baptist Publishing Society, 1907), p. 232.

5 John Bray, Morgan Edwards & the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Teaching (1788)
(Lakeland, FL: John L. Bray Ministries, 1995): 8

6 See Floyd Elmore, "J. N. Darby's Early Years," in Thomas Ice and Timothy
Demy, When The Trumpet Sounds (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1995), pp. 127-50.

7 John Moore, "Morgan Edwards," p. 33.

8 For information about the Pseudo-Ephraem material see Grant R. Jeffrey, "A
Pretrib Rapture Statement in the Early Medieval Church," in Thomas Ice and
Timothy Demy, When The Trumpet Sounds (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1995), pp.
105-25. Timothy Demy and Thomas Ice, "The Rapture and an Early Medieval
Citation" Bibliotheca Sacra 152 (July-September 1995), pp. 306-17.


Louise said...

Interesting blog. You would enjoy going to Google and typing in "Thomas Ice (Bloopers)," "Pretrib Hypocrisy," "Famous Rapture Watchers," and "Pretrib Rapture Diehards." Also "Deceiving and Being Deceived" by MacPherson which has the best analyses of the claims for Morgan Edwards. Lord bless. Louise

Zelma Pack said...

Hi Lois:
Thank you for reading My blogs. Yes I have already studied all of these but go back futher than this to the teaching of Clement and Polycarp, and the early church Fathers and they believed in a pre trib Rapture. Also pay close attention to why Paul wrote 2 Thessolians as there were false teachers that had already came into the flock and told them that the day of the Lord is at hand or has already happened. I think so many use Matt. 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13 to try and disprove the rapture. I would also suggest you go into and look up the words we have not been appointed to wrath but to obtain salvation from Jesus Christ our Lord. The first six seals are the wrath of the lamb. The wrath of Jesus and can you imagine all of us out there crying to the mountains and hills to hide us from the wrath of the Lamb. Does that make sense to you. You must decipher in your studies who what why where when and how.
Also go to the first two words in Chpt 4 of Rev. and look them up in the greek and read it in the Greek the words are Meta Touta meaning after these things, after what things the prior three verses deal with the church and then we are transposed to a heavenly scene where the saints sing a song to Jesus. Take a close look at the song they sing. What does after these thing mean to the average person, after I get the dishes down I am going to go to Sally house not before but after.
Then you have to realize that 5/6 of the army of Gog and magog have been defeated by God and during the first five seals 1/4 of the eart is destroyed that is 2.3 billion people then later we have anothe third of the earth. and then another third of the eart. Why is the church not mentioned after chpt three. Is God now talking to the Jews. It is the 144,ooo Jews that are sealed but they are sealed with the name of God in their forhead, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. I beg people to watch, pray and be ready for the Lord can come at any time and where will you be if you are not watching. Why does He use those words 30 some times in the N.T. Must be something we are to watch for. I am not watching for the antichrist I am watching for Jesus to sound with a trump and call come up Hither in 1 Thess. chpt 4. Who is he talking to. It is not the Jews it is the church, He does not come to eart at that time. This is when we recieve our new glorified bodies as it taught in 1 Cor. chpt 15. I hope I have made some sense to you I will be posting a great study on the rapture. Now I do not read any of the books and do not know the man Thomas Ice so I will not comment on him. Yes I do know Grant Jeffries in passing and speaking with him in some conferences, yet I do not buy the books of men. I go by the Bible only and my 6 good friends. If people would only learn to use them. Take a chapter and read it then ask Who, what, why, where, when and how and ask as many questions that you can. Such as Matthew 24, who is speaking, Jesus is, who is he speaking to the Jewish disciples. Why do they run to the mountains? Why is their run important not to be on the Sabbath day? Why are they in Judea? Why are they on the roof tops, do you know any of us who visit from our roofs? Yet today in Israel the families go to the roof top all the time and visit between families and other families. When will this happen before and after the son of Perdition is revealed unto them. How does this apply to me. Well It does not because I am a gentile. When does this happen in the last days. Why did Jesus warn them? He knew they would go thru it and many would escape to the walled city of Petra which you find all over the O.T. Is Petra ready for them Yes it is all set up and millions can get in there. Why does not Paul or Peter or James or John not warn us to prepare for the 7 years of tribulation which is called Jacobs trouble. Who is Jacob? Enough for now. Please pray that the Holy Spirit uses this to help you out and believe the Word of God not the words of mere men. The post trib theory did not even come in until I believe that late 50 by william law or land. Not sure of the name right now will go into and try and get it to you correctly. God Bless us and keep us all and Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Rocky2 said...

The Real Morgan Edwards

by George Wilson

In 1995, in a 24-page booklet on 18th century pastor Morgan Edwards, evangelist John Bray claimed that Edwards taught a pretrib rapture in his 1788 book titled "Two Academical Exercises...."
Those echoing Bray include Thomas Ice who wrote "Morgan Edwards: Another Pre-Darby Rapturist." Edwards' 1788 work can be found on the internet.
In order to claim that Edwards held to pretrib, candidates for the I-can-find-pretrib-earlier-in-church-history-than-you-can medal - including Bray, Ice, LaHaye, Frank Marotta etc. - have intentionally covered up Edwards' "historicism," his belief that the tribulation had already been going on for hundreds of years. (How can anyone in the tribulation go back in time and look for a pretrib rapture?)
Here's proof of Edwards' historicism and its companion "day-year" theory which can view the 1260 tribulation "days" as "years."
On p. 14 Edwards described the Ottoman Empire (which was then already 400 years old) as the Rev. 13:11 "beast." On p. 20 he defined "Antichrist" as the already 1000-year-old "popery" and the "succession of persons" known as "Popes" - his other Rev. 13 "beast." He necessarily viewed Rev. 13's 1260-day period as 1260 literal years in order to provide enough time for his two "beasts."
On p. 19, while discussing "the ministry of the witnesses" of Rev. 11, he allotted "about 204 years" for their "years to perform" - years impossible to fit into a 3.5-year period!
What about Edwards' rapture? On pp. 21-23 he wrote about "the appearing of the son of man in the clouds, coming to raise the dead saints and change the living, and to catch them up to himself....The signs of Christ's appearing in the clouds will be extraordinary 'wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and famines,' &. (Matth. xxiv. 6-8.)....The signs of his coming, in the heavens will be 'the trump of God [I Thess. 4:16], vapor and smoke, which will darken the sun and moon [Matt. 24:29],'...and also cause those meteors called 'falling stars'....
Right after his combined rapture/advent (!), Edwards said: "And therefore, now, Antichrist...will...counterfeit the preceding wonders in heaven...causing 'fire to come down from heaven'....And that godhead he will now assume, after killing the two witnesses....Now the great persecution of the Jews will begin...for time, times, and half a time...."
Thomas Ice's article on Edwards (see first par. above) quoted only the first 27 words in the above quotation, ending with "to himself." This sort of unethical revisionism is constantly employed by many pretrib defenders.
Not only had most of Edwards' historicist tribulation occurred before his combined rapture/advent, but his Antichrist kept raging for 3.5 years even after the Matt. 24 signs! No wonder his tutor advised him to correct his thesis!
To read Edwards' complete work, Google "[PDF] Two Academical"
For more info on Edwards, Google "McPherson Page" (click on a reproduction of "Cover-Ups"). Also Google "Deceiving and Being Deceived" by historian Dave MacPherson.

Irv said...

I just found your blog and noted your reference to John Bray. There is a fascinating article about him on a blog owned by Joe Ortiz - an article entitled "Is John Bray a PINO?" Well worth a read!