She is well-known by many posttribulationists and unknown by most pretribulationists.
I have visited just about every web site there is which is anti-rapture in nature. One common arguing point nearly every one of these sites uses to oppose the pretribulation doctrine is the claim that the rapture theory was started by a Scottish girl named Margaret MacDonald. Many critics of the rapture declare that MacDonald received her vision from demonic origins, which she then passed on to infect the Church. Being a staunch pretribulationist, I'm at a loss to explain the missing connection between Margaret MacDonald and my beliefs in the rapture. I cannot recall every hearing pre-trib prophetic speakers say, "I believe in the rapture because Margaret MacDonald told me so."
After reading and listening to a number of web sites, books, and radio programs that promote the idea that Margaret MacDonald started pretribulationism, I decided to look into the matter.
To be certain that there was no oversight on my part, I searched through my library of prophecy books looking for references that cited Margaret MacDonald as the founder of the rapture teaching. My hunt for a pretribulation accreditation to MacDonald turned out to be a vain one. It was like looking for the cartoon character "Where's Waldo." Only in this case, there was no Waldo to be found.
If MacDonald was the founder of the pretribulation rapture, as most anti- rapture proponents say she is, then someone needs to explain why rapturists have failed to given her credit. You would expect to find dozens of books that expounded upon her every word. From reading the writings of anti-rapture authors, one would think we pre-tribbers should be reverencing MacDonald the same way Catholics reverence Mary, when clearly we don't. You do not hear pre-tribbers going around reciting, "Hail Margaret full of grace, blessed art thou among visionaries, pray of us sinners at the time of the rapture." The lack of recognition being paid to MacDonald by rapture believers is like a situation where the modern Mormon church failed to recognized Joseph Smith as their founder or today's Jehovah's witnesses neglecting to identify Charles Russell as their originator. Poor Margaret MacDonald, she gets all of the blame, but none of the credit.
After having examined the claims of those critical of the rapture, I have found holes in their so-called evidence that you could drive a dump truck through:
- The first problem with the MacDonald origin is the fact that she wasn't the one that widely taught the doctrine of the pre-trib rapture. A man named John Darby is believed by many to be the one who started the modern interest in the rapture. The question here is how did Darby come to hear of MacDonald's vision? Proponents like Dave MacPherson and John L. Bray have never been able to prove that Darby ever heard of MacDonald or her vision.
- Darby himself claims the revelation of the rapture came to him when he realized the distinction between Israel and the church.
- Darby reported that he discovered the rapture teaching in 1827 - three years before MacDonald had her vision.
- When one closely examines MacDonald's vision, It becomes clear that her vision could not have been a pretribulation one. MacDonald looked for a "fiery trial which is to try us," and she foresaw the Church being purged by the Antichrist. Any pretribulation rapturist can tell you the Church will be removed before the advent of the Antichrist. John Bray, an anti-rapturist, said himself that Margaret MacDonald was teaching a single coming of our Lord Jesus. This contradicts current rapture doctrine that teaches a two staged event - Christ first coming for His Church and then seven years later His return to earth. With so many contradictions between MacDonald's vision and today's pretribulationism, I find it very difficult to see any linkage here.
- By far the biggest mistake post-tribulationists have made in their attack on the rapture is their claim that the pretribulation rapture was never taught before 1830. In fact, John L. Bray, a Southern Baptist Evangelist, offered $500 to anyone who could prove that someone taught the rapture doctrine prior to MacDonald's 1830 vision. John L. Bray was first proven wrong when in a newsletter. Bray 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." Bray stuck his neck out again when he made another $500 offered to anyone who could provide a documented statement earlier than Lacunza's 1812 writings. Well, apparently he had to cough up the 500 bucks. I quote him again, "I offered $500.00 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 ever rightfully claimed that $500.00 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." Lately, a number of other sources have been location that teach the pretribulation rapture - some written as early as the second century. Now where does this leave Margaret MacDonald?
In my life here on earth, I've made a number of observations that I regard as undeniable truths. One of these is the fact that the truth will suffer attacks with no one defending it, while a lie will be allowed to proliferate with no one challenging it. This is what seems to have taken place in the rapture's case. For years-on-end, anti-rapturists have been allowed to freely attack pretribulationism. One assailant called the rapture the mark of the beast while another remarked that when Jesus returns at the battle of Armageddon, He will fight against those who believe in the rapture. The men that should have been contending for the rapture, for the most part, just sat there saying, "That may be your opinion." Finally, it appears that those who hold to a pretribulation rapture are starting to counter these ridiculous charges. A number of books have been published that cite several pre-MacDonald sources that describe a raptured Church. The author Grant Jeffrey deserves a good deal of the praises for his work in discovering many these pre-MacDonald sources.
As far as being able to find the pretribulation rapture in the Bible, I do not think everyone needs to be a rocket scientist to discover it. I am unable to vouch for everyone else, but for me, locating the rapture doctrine in the Bible was as simple as finding evidence that Jesus Christ is Messiah.
The evidence that Christians believed in the rapture long before MacDonald does not seem to have sunk into the minds of those opposed to the rapture. They still teach that she is the founder of pretribulationism. When someone is presented with overwhelming proof that what they believed to be the truth is in fact wrong, and they refuse to except that truth, then you certainly have to conclude that they are in spiritual darkness.
I would like to end by saying that there is no evidence whatsoever pointing to MacDonald as the source of pretribulationism. Every major prophetic author alive today claims the word of God as their foundation for believing in the rapture. Both Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul together made statements that clearly establish the rapture doctrine. Jesus said in (Matthew 25:13) Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh," and Paul in (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) "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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
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