Number 1

September 23, 2014


Revelation 10:5-7 – And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, [6] And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer: [7] But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.

I Corinthians 15:51 – Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

I Thessalonians 4:16 – 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:

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.


June 29, 2002


As a young man I developed an interest in certain historical eras of time, especially the period of time associated with the castles of ancient England. In December of 1961, after I had traveled for some three years from north to south and east to west across England, the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society published my lengthy discourse on “Forecasting Rain Stratus in the Midlands of England.” During those three years I examined most of the ancient castle earthworks found standing after the rampage of Cromwell across England. England is the land of very old books and the meticulous maintenance of these books is carried out rigorously at Oxford and Cambridge Universities. So if you really want to know for sure when a particular Biblical interpretation first came into print, these two institutions should be the place to begin your research.

From my earliest days I had an avid interest in all publications that interpreted Biblical passages concerning the second coming of Christ. When I first began lecturing in churches, seminaries, universities, and colleges in 1978, I had no idea that my travels would take me to more than 700 of these institutions, and that I would be in the immediate vicinity of most of the major colleges and universities in the U.S. The vast majority of our institutions of higher learning began as small institutions under the control of a church or churches. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most of them individually broke away from their sponsoring churches to become the independent centers of higher secular learning today. The majority of books in colleges and universities in early years were religious books, but after they lost the influence of the sponsoring churches they gradually became more and more secular in their teaching and accredited degrees, so they had to decide what to do with their very large volume of religious books. Some were sold, some thrown away, and some placed in specially created archives. I know I am a sixth generation Missionary Baptist because of the material I collected from just such an archive in Kalamazoo College in Michigan. Its archives documented that Henry McElmurry, of whom I am a direct descendant, was the missionary-pastor of three of our early churches in southeastern Missouri from 1834 to 1839. Some of the books in the archives of these colleges are so old and fragile, that they have a designated person to open the pages for you to prevent the book being damaged.

So why have I labored on so long about old books. I wanted to know when various teachings were published concerning when the Lord would come, particularly in reference to what is called the tribulation period, a period of time that ends with the battle of Armageddon. So, as I traveled, I went to these archives and searched for this information. All of the old books I examined were quite definite that the tribulation period would close with the battle of Armageddon. But the time of the beginning of the tribulation, how long it was to last once it started, and when the first resurrection occurred in reference to it, was quite another matter. The first resurrection, which has taken on the popular title “the rapture,” has been one of the most vigorously debated theological subjects in the Word of God for some 215 years. So, because it still is, I intend to present as accurate a documented history as I am able from my research. I will attempt to show when several beliefs concerning this much debated subject first appeared on the scene in published books.

When Johannes Gutenberg invented the first process of printing from separately cast metal types, used for moveable type, the era of book publishing was soon to begin. By 1450 he had a press in Germany financed by Johann Fust. In 1455 Fust had the first printed Bible in history well under way. Slowly the publishing of books by press immerged. Many of the first books published were interpretative expositions of Biblical scriptures, and among those were expositions of scriptures about the first resurrection. After the 1611 KJV was published, expositions on Christ’s second coming started appearing in books based on the interpretation of passages found in it.

The first printed U.S. work that taught a “rapture” (first resurrection) before the blowing of the seventh trumpet in the book of Revelation was published in 1788. The teaching appeared in a book written by a well-known Baptist preacher of the eighteenth century, Morgan Edwards. It was titled “Two Academic Exercises on Subjects Bearing the Following Titles: Millennial and Last Novelties.” The book was published by Dodson and Lang, Second Street between Market and Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In my archive search to discover the first printings of various positions held on the time of Christ’s coming, in relation to the end of the tribulation period, I had only found two published positions prior to the War of 1812. The vast majority of all the publications put Christ’s coming at the very end of the tribulation period, and a definite minority placed it at the blowing of the seventh trumpet, just before God’s wrath is poured out on the earth in seven vials. However, Morgan, for the first time in history since books began to be published, taught that a rapture of the saved would occur 3 and ½ years before the end of the tribulation period. There is no record of any printed book historically published prior to 1788, as far as I have been able to discover, that taught a rapture prior to the last 3 and ½ years before the final battle of Armageddon in the tribulation period.  I don’t say that such a book or books do not exist, but if they do, they are a drop in an ocean of books.

Dr. Thomas Chalmers, a Presbyterian minister of the Church of Scotland, and the man who first introduced what is known as the “Gap Theory,” had an assistant named Edward Irving. In 1827 Reverend Irving began to teach that Christ would first come for His saints, and then after a period of tribulation, He would come to destroy antichrist and to reign. In 1830 in Port Glasgow, Scotland, a 15-year-old young lady, named Margaret MacDonald, announced that she had received a prophetic vision from God concerning the coming of Christ. Her revelation may be found in a book by Robert Norton entitled “The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets” in the Catholic Apostolic Church, (London, 1861). In his book he declared that from her vision it could be seen that Christians would be taken out before the time of tribulation.

J.N. Darby, a leader among the early Plymouth Brethren, was known to have visited her during the time Margaret was having her visions. The teaching of a 7-year tribulation period came after these visions. The idea of the tribulation period consisting of two 3 and ½ year periods was put in print after John Darby began preaching the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory. Prior to that time you will find no publication was ever printed that showed two boxes joined together to form a 7 year period, with the first box representing a period of 3 and ½ years of peace, and the second box representing a period of 3 and ½ years of tribulation. The 7-year theory was developed by proponents of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory. It was developed by letting the “he” in Daniel 9:27 refer to the antichrist rather than Christ.  Before 1788 they taught that the “he” of Daniel 9:27 was Christ or Antiochus Epiphanes, but in view of the new revelation in 1788, it eventually became necessary to justify it, and by 1832 a series of new Scripture combinations began to appear, and they were used to teach what came to be known as the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Position. It was the grand joining of the “70th Week of Daniel” prophecy with the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory that finally  launched today’s popular teaching under a wind filled sail. J.N. Darby taught that the rapture occurs before the last 7 years of the prophecy of 490 years found in Daniel 9:24-27. In Volume 3, page 424, of Darby’s letters, he wrote: “Let it be remembered now that we have no date for the rapture of the church – that the dates BEGIN with a week of Daniel 9, and half a week when the sacrifice is made to cease. But this does not affect the general testimony of Matthew 24, which may begin the week, and be carried on among the Gentiles during the great tribulation at Jerusalem.”

J.N. Darby visited America seven times between 1862 and 1877. Cyrus I. Scofield, minister of a Congregational church, became a student of all the writings of J.N. Darby, and then forever popularized his Pre-Tribulation Rapture position by placing it in the Scofield Reference Bible notes of his 1909 publication. Most of the Bible teachers of Scofield’s day did not accept his new found position, but it was so appealing to religious groups that it spread across the country like wildfire as an exciting new revelation, which taught God’s children would never go into the tribulation period. By the time I was saved in 1944, you were often considered a heretic if you believed anything other than a rapture 7 years prior to the end of the tribulation period.

When I wrote my last two books, Tribulation Triad and Birth Pangs from the Bottomless Pit in the late seventies, I was what was known as a “Mid-Tribber.” In the early eighties I changed my position on when the first resurrection occurs in relation to the end of the tribulation period.  Could the Mid-Tribulation Rapture Position be correct? Yes, if God chose to wait some 1788 years after Christ’s birth before letting it first appear in a printed book exposition of Biblical scriptures by a man named Morgan Edwards. Could the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Position be correct? Yes, if God chose to wait some 1830 years after the birth of His Son before letting it first appear in a printed form. To my knowledge, there was never a published printed book prior to 1788, which explained the scriptures found in the Bible about the rapture by advocating a Pre or Mid Tribulation Rapture.

I have read the letters of the early church fathers to see if any such teaching was clearly spelled out in context in their writings on a Pre-Tribulation rapture. And, in so doing, I have searched hoping to find such a reference, but have not found a reference in context that justified such a position with sufficient clarity to be certain.

I did find two that may advocate such a position, but the only thing I can be sure of is that they are much more likely to simply refer to the rapture as being pre-millennial, not specifically pre-tribulation.  The references were by Irenaeus and Hippolytus, written on scrolls in about 180 AD.

There was also a document reported by advocates of the pre-tribulation rapture position as being genuine and written by Ephraem the Syria in 373 AD.  However, the document is classified by all the antiquity experts as being Pseudo-Ephraem (Pseudo means false).  It was titled “On the last times, the Antichrist, and the End of the World.”  But the problem with it is threefold: We can’t be sure that Ephraem wrote it, or if the man who did copied it or made it up himself, or WHEN he wrote it.

If you think I didn’t want to find such a reference, you are quite wrong. To not agree with the Pre-Tribulation position only gains you unpopularity with most of the brethren and, being carnal in the flesh, and desiring their acceptance, I certainly hoped to find such a position issued prior to 1788, but found none of which I could honestly state: Yes! This teaches a Pre-Tribulation rapture. Could I be wrong in the position I hold? Certainly! And I will continue to search for the prophetic truth on this subject. I have not changed what I was taught as a youth concerning the doctrines on salvation, baptism, the local church, and its two ordinances, but I have changed my mind about the position of the Lord’s coming in reference to the battle of Armageddon and, quite frankly, will change my mind again if I find a better case than the one you find in Prophecy Update 73D. Any man who is not willing to change his position on the time of Christ’s coming, in relation to the end of the tribulation period, makes it a doctrinal position. There is only one doctrine concerning Christ’s coming – HE IS COMING. When he comes, in relation to the events stated as occurring in the tribulation period, is a matter of opinion, not a matter of doctrine.

So how do all these different positions affect me? They don’t! In our work we have “first of the weekers,” middle of the weekers,” “last of the weekers,” “seventh trumpers,” “split rapturers,” “triple rapturers,” and “progressive rapturers.” It would be ridiculous for me to make what my brethren believe about the rapture a test of fellowship. The doctrine of Christ’s coming is that He is coming. If you don’t believe that you are a heretic, and I don’t want your fellowship. I have a very simple Biblical principle that I follow to be ready when he does come. I know I will be taken because I am saved. So I daily attempt to be faithful to Him in one of His new testament churches, in order that I will be prepared to stand before His judgment seat whenever He comes.

I do not believe we have a full week of seven years left to fulfill in Daniel’s 70 weeks of 490 years (See Prophecy Updates 55, 56, 57 and 58 in our Prophecy Archives). I am persuaded Christ is coming on the blowing of the 7th trumpet in Revelation 10:7, 11:15, and 11:18, but I live my life like it could be today. I am “watching” daily for that time, whenever it is. I have been told that one cannot do such a thing. Well, just hide and watch me! If it does occur 7 years before the battle of Armageddon, then I will be caught “watching” for His coming.

The material contained in this Prophecy Update has been taken from many old books I have perused in the U.S. and overseas during my many years of travel, but a large portion of it came from the research of John L. Bray, a Baptist Minister who was born in 1921 in Macon, Georgia, and was ordained as pastor of a Baptist church in Jacksonville, Florida at the age of 18. He was educated at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, John B. Stetson University in Deland, Florida, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and, if he is still living, would be some 81 years in age. By 1990 he had spent 30 years as a pastor of Southern Baptist Churches, and completed 21 years as a full time evangelist. I am indebted to him for some of the extractions I took from his writings in compiling this update.