The Revelation of the Coming
(Margaret Macdonald's Revelation)
Margaret Macdonald has often been either upheld as a visionary, or blamed for "inventing" the pre-tribulational rapture of the Church. This is a very complicated matter, and people tend to take opposite sides without knowing many facts. Margaret Macdonald, a young Christian living in Port Glasgow, Scotland certainly received a revelation which was then written and re-written, circulated and first published in 1840, some ten years later.
Not long after her revelation, she wrote down her account of everything and sent hand-written copies of it to a number of Christian leaders. The Morning Watch, a leading British publication, quickly copied some of her distinctive notions. Her revelation was first published in Robert Norton's Memoirs of James & George Macdonald, of Port Glasgow (1840), pp. 171-176. Norton published it again in The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets; In the Catholic Apostolic Church (1861), pp. 15-18.
Some writers linked Margaret to the young lady known only as "Miss M.M." who had (they said) stood up in an Irvingite service in LONDON in 1832 and given a word that purportedly spoke of the rapture BEFORE the Second Coming, at that time a novel idea (but not wholly unheard of, as we shall see.)
Others levelled the charge that she was amongst the company of false prophets who were causing "disturbances" in Edward Irving's church at the time (hinting at a demonic source for the pre-trib rapture). Robert Baxter who had himself been part of that company later wrote that these prophets and visionaries spoke under the direction of demonic power.
However, (as author Dave MacPherson now confirms) the person who stood up in Irving's church was a Mrs John Bates Cardale, and certainly has no connection to the Margaret Macdonald who circulated a written revelation she had received WHILE STUDYING THE SCRIPTURES in 1830 in SCOTLAND!
But more importantly, and the reason for this article, the pre-trib Rapture cannot be attributed to Margaret Macdonald's revelation since the teaching quite plainly IS NOT THERE. [What is there, I think you will agree as you read it, is interesting in another way because it prefigures much of today's revivalist teaching.]
The revelation was altered several times during the course of its circulation, and portions were omitted that spoke specifically of the Antichrist being revealed and the fiery trial of purging that would result from his appearance. Omited portions are marked in red in the transcript below. They appeared in the 1840 version of R. Norton's transcript but were missing from the later 1861 book, presumably because they were now an embarrassment to the emerging pre-trib dispensationalist viewpoint.
Was Margaret a Dispensationalist?
Margaret was herself more influenced by the prevailing historicist view of the day than the futurist view that developed in later years. Two portion of the revelation, in particular, seem to indicate a POST-TRIB belief. These portions are marked with emphasis below. It is hard work indeed, using this revelation, to prove that Christians will be taken out before the tribulation or arrival of Antichrist.
Historicism - the belief that the prophecies of Revelation are being worked out slowly through history since the time of the Ascension - had become the accepted view by the 19th century. However, is this what the early Church believed? Scholars looking at the teaching of the Apostles and the early Church Fathers have come to the conclusion that historicism was NOT held by them to be the correct interpretation of scripture. They were FUTURISTS and PRE-MILLENNIALISTS.
That is, they believed the words of Revelation, the prophecies of Daniel and the warnings and promises of Jesus to refer to definite, literal, future events, and that the Return of Christ would come BEFORE and LEAD TO a literal thousand-year reign of righteousness and peace on earth.
It was only after Emperor Constantine gave his official sanction to the Christian faith that the view developed that Christ was now reigning on earth through the government of the Church, (A-millennialism), and that prophecy was not fulfilled literally but allegorically in and through the Church.
However, views varied, and from time to time other opinions on prophecy became popular. People began to look for a greater measure of peace and stability on earth than that provided by a fallen Church. In 1703, Daniel Whitby taught a version of Post-Millennialism, with the Church coming into a golden age of victory and power before the Lord's Return.
The Historicist view of prophecy attached ever more fanciful historical interpretations to the prophecies of Revelation which time and again proved false. The majority of Protestant (reformed) teachers up to the 19th century were a-millennial or post-millennial historicists. They did not read prophecy literally, but symbolised everything down to the smallest detail in an attempt to fit events into the Church era. Thus the prophecies of Antichrist were being fulfilled in the Papacy and in successive Popes as an ongoing present evil.
However, around the 19th century there was a move towards a Futurist interpretation of prophecy. This did not happen all at once, but was developed in stages through various scholars, some of them within the Roman Catholic system, and some outside.
Franciscus de Ribera in 1580 wrote a book that was a mixture of a-millennialism, historicism and futurism. He began with the seals opening in the time of Christ, but much of the book of Revelation he interpreted literally at some future date.
Manuel de Lacunza was another Catholic who defied the Roman traditional beliefs in order to write (secretly and under threat of discovery) about prophecy from a futurist viewpoint, though many of his beliefs and theories would seem strange to us today. His book "The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty" (completed in 1790) was written under the pen-name of Ben-Ezra to avoid exposure. It was placed on the Index of Forbidden Books by Rome in 1824.
However, Edward Irving obtained a copy and translated it into English. From his foreword we see that Irving disagreed, profoundly at times, with Lacunza's views. Nevertheless, the futurist interpretation of prophecy was making a welcome come-back from the days of the early Church, and soon more and more Christians studying the scriptures came to the conclusion, as Lacunza had, that much of the endtimes scenario was yet to come.
Lacunza and the Rapture
It has often been asserted (in ignorance of Lacunza's book) that this man was the first to propose a pre-trib Rapture. Actually, Lacunza did nothing of the sort. His only reference to the removal of the saints makes it plain that they had endured throughout the Tribulation. However, he suggested that there would be a short time-period, of 45 days, between the "epiphany" (the appearance of the Lord in glory from Heaven) and the "parousia", (the coming to earth).
Lacunza suggested that the 45 days would be a time of judgement upon earth where the wrath of God was poured out on God's enemies. The millennial reign of Christ would follow. However, this is a very different doctrine from the invisible catching away and resurrection of the believers before the Tribulation. The pre-trib rapture is not to be found in Lacunza's book.
What follows is the version of Margaret Macdonald's revelation as published in The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets In the Catholic Apostolic Church (1861).
"It was first the awful state of the land that was pressed upon me. I saw the blindness and infatuation of the people to be very great. I felt the cry of Liberty just to be the hiss of the serpent, to drown them in perdition. It was just 'no God.'
I repeated the words, Now there is distress of nations, with perplexity, the seas and the waves roaring, men's hearts failing them for fear. Now look out for the sign of the Son of Man. Here I was made to stop and cry out, O it is not known what the sign of the Son of Man is; the people of God think they are waiting, but they know not what it is.
I felt this needed to be revealed, and that there was great darkness and error about it; but suddenly what it was burst upon me with a glorious light. I saw it was just the Lord himself descending from Heaven with a shout, just the glorified man, even Jesus; but that all must, as Stephen was, be filled with the Holy Ghost, that they might look up, and see the brightness of the Father's glory.
I saw the error to be, that men think that it will be something seen by the natural eye; but 'tis spiritual discernment that is needed, the eye of God in his people.
Many passages were revealed, in a light in which I had not before seen them. I repeated, 'Now is the kingdom of Heaven like unto ten virgins, who went forth to meet the Bridegroom, five wise and five foolish; they that were foolish took their lamps, but took no oil with them; but they that were wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.'
'But be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is; and be not drunk with wine wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.' This was the oil the wise virgins took in their vessels - this is the light to be kept burning - the light of God - that we may discern that which cometh not with observation to the natural eye.
Only those who have the light of God within them will see the sign of his appearance. No need to follow them who say, see here, or see there, for his day shall be as the lightning to those in whom the living Christ is. 'Tis Christ in us that will lift us up - he is the light - 'tis only those that are alive in him that will be caught up to meet him in the air.
I saw that we must be in the Spirit, that we might see spiritual things. John was in the Spirit, when he saw a throne set in Heaven. But I saw that the glory of the ministration of the Spirit had not been known. I repeated frequently, but the spiritual temple must and shall be reared, and the fullness of Christ be poured into his body, and then [note: no imminency teaching here!] shall we be caught up to meet him. Oh none will be counted worthy of this calling but his body, which is the church, and which must be a candlestick all of gold.
I often said, Oh the glorious inbreaking of God which is now about to burst on this earth; Oh the glorious temple which is now about to be reared, the bride adorned for her husband; and Oh what a holy, holy bride she must he, to be prepared for such a glorious bridegroom.
I said, Now shall the people of God have to do with realities - now shall the glorious mystery of God in our nature be known - now shall it be known what it is for man to be glorified. I felt that the revelation of Jesus Christ had yet to be opened up - it is not knowledge about God that it contains, but it is an entering into God - I saw that there was a glorious breaking in of God to be.
I felt as Elijah, surrounded with chariots of fire. I saw as it were, the spiritual temple reared, and the Head Stone brought forth with shoutings of grace, grace, unto it. It was a glorious light above the brightness of the sun that shone round about me. I felt that those who were filled with the Spirit could see spiritual things, and feel walking in the midst of them, while those who had not the Spirit could see nothing - so that two shall be in one bed, the one taken and the other left, because the one has the light of God within while the other cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven.
I saw the people of God in an awfully dangerous situation, surrounded by nets and entanglements, about to be tried, and many about to be deceived and fall. Now will THE WICKED be revealed, with all power and signs and lying wonders, so that it it were possible the very elect will be deceived. - [This is the fiery trial which is to try us. - It will be for the purging and purifying of the real members of the body of Jesus]; but Oh it will be a fiery trial. Every soul will he shaken to the very centre. The enemy will try to shake in every thing we have believed - but the trial of real faith will be found to honour and praise and glory. Nothing but what is of God will stand. The stony-ground hearers will be made manifest - the love of many will wax cold.
I frequently said that night, and often since, now shall the awful sight of a false Christ be seen on this earth, and nothing but the living Christ in us can detect this awful attempt of the enemy to deceive - for it is with all deceivableness of unrighteousness he will work - he will have a counterpart for every part of God's truth, and an imitation for every work of the Spirit.
The Spirit must and will be poured out on the church, that she may be purified and filled with God - and just in proportion as the Spirit of God works, so will he - when our Lord anoints men with power, so will he. This is particularly the nature of the trial, through which those are to pass who will be counted worthy to stand before the Son of man. There will he outward trial too, but 'tis principally temptation. It is brought on by the outpouring of the Spirit, and will just increase in proportion as the Spirit is poured out.
[The trial of the Church is from Antichrist. It is by being filled with the Spirit that we shall be kept].
I frequently said, Oh be filled with the Spirit - have the light of God in you, that you may detect Satan - be full of eyes within -be clay in the hands of the potter -submit to be filled, filled with God. This will build the temple. It is not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord. This will fit us to enter into the marriage supper of the Lamb.
I saw it to be the will of God that all should be filled. But what hindered the real life of God from being received by his people, was their turning from Jesus, who is the way to the Father. They were not entering in by the door. For he is faithful who hath said, by me if any man enters in he shall find pasture. They were bypassing the cross, through which every drop of the Spirit of God flows to us. All power that comes not through the blood of Christ is not of God.
When I say, they are looking from the cross, I feel that there is much in it - they turn from the blood of the Lamb, by which we overcome, and in which our robes are washed and made white. There are low views of God's holiness, and a ceasing to condemn sin in the flesh, and a looking from him who humbled himself, and made himself of no reputation. Oh! it is needed, much needed at present, a leading back to the cross.
I saw that night, and often since, that there will be an outpouring of the Spirit on the body, such as has not been, a baptism of fire, that all the dross may be put away. Oh there must and will be such an indwelling of the living God as has not been - the servants of God sealed in their foreheads - great conformity to Jesus - his holy holy image seen in his people - just the bride made comely by his comeliness put upon her.
This is what we are at present made to pray much for, that speedily we may all be made ready to meet our Lord in the air - and it will be. Jesus wants his bride. His desire is toward us. He that shall come, will come, and will not tarry.
Amen and Amen Even so come Lord Jesus.