Rev. Morgan Edwards
Taught a Pretribulation Rapture
in the 1740s!

By Gary Stearman

We have often expressed our amazement that the church has so quickly turned away from an expectant watch for the Lord's return. Instead, the decade of the 1990s seems to be marked by a willing march toward the Great Tribulation. More and more often, it seems, pulpits are shouting the message that we must prepare ourselves for the exigencies of a world gone mad. When the seals are opened and the four horsemen ride forth, we'll be there to mark off the day-count of Daniel' s Seventieth Week.

Yet when asked, those who preach this message explain that we will survive the horrors of this period through God's special sealing and protection. This, in turn, contradicts their urgent exhortation to store up food, water and ammo to survive that wicked day. Why would you hoard food if you were soon to be placed under God's special protection?

The bottom line is this: Mid- and Post-Tribulationism are new teachings. They are recent developments, born out of the bitter Twentieth-Century experience of two World Wars, the Atomic Age and the millions of murders committed by various Communist governments. The reasoning is simple. Others have experienced terror and torture, so what right have we to believe that we will escape? This is false logic. The truth is even more simple. In many Scriptures, we are plainly told that we will rest with the Lord during that time. For example:

"And you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

"In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ" (II Thess. 1:7,8).

The Faithful Remnant

As seen in these verses, Paul taught the imminent return of Christ - even in the first century. And he consistently told his followers not to worry if someone told them to prepare for the Day of the Lord. As we have pointed out elsewhere, he taught that Tribulation is not to be considered an imminent event. This exhortation was given to comfort the faithful, not alert them.

Down through the centuries, a small but faithful remnant continued to hold to Paul's doctrine. However, its use for instruction, though appropriate, was given lesser prominence until the era following the Reformation.

It is common knowledge that in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, the doctrine of eschatology assumed a more central position in Christian teaching. This is true for the simple reason that the time of all these events is drawing closer.

Some 30 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed, a Baptist minister was teaching a pretribulation Rapture. Moreover, he believed the prophesied events would begin to come to pass in 1996!

Morgan Edwards, Baptist Pastor

But even before that - in the Eighteenth Century - this teaching was active. In a small book entitled, Morgan Edwards: An Eighteenth Century Pretribulationist, author Frank Marotta documents the writings of the brilliant and faithful pastor, Morgan Edwards.

Of the man, himself, Mr. Marotta writes, "Morgan Edwards was born in Wales, May 9, 1722. He was educated at Bristol Baptist College. He was ordained and labored in Ireland, then in England. He was recommended by John Gill and others to pastor the Baptist church in Philadelphia. Edwards was Calvinistic. During the Revolutionary War, he sided with Britain, which was unusual among Baptist ministers in colonial America. He was the founder of Brown University, at first called Rhode Island College. He was the premier Baptist historian of his era; his Materials Toward A History of the Baptists remains an important historical source regarding early American Baptists."

History records this gentleman as a first-rate scholar, and a man of intense spiritual commitment. Even among the godly men of his day, his reputation was considered exceptional.

It is all the more interesting, then, that he understood and taught Paul's doctrine of eschatology, combined with an obvious grasp of Daniel and Revelation. And despite the weight of twelve centuries of bizarre Bible interpretation under the reign of state religion, he remained true to Paul's view of the latter days.

Thanks to Frank Marotta's research, we are assured once again that by the grace of God, a remnant of sound doctrine threaded its way through the Christian era, to emerge intact at the end. He writes, "The rule of interpretation that Edwards applies was that recommended by his tutor at the Bristol Academy, 'to take the Scriptures in a literal sense, except when that leads to contradiction or absurdity.'" These are words that many would do well to heed today!

On the subject of Premillenialism, Edwards writes, "Christ's personal reign on earth will be a thousand years at least ... Christ's kingdom and reign will be universal ... No people or state will be left out ... The risen and changed saints shall reign with Christ on earth a thousand years."

These words, from Edwards' Two Academical Exercises on Subjects Bearing the Following Titles; Millennium, Last-Novelties, make it crystal clear that he believed that the saints would be resurrected some time prior to the millennium.

Edwards' belief about the antichrist is most interesting. Marotta writes, "Edwards sees Antichrist as a future individual. He speculates that he will be the last pope. He teaches that the 1260 days and 1290 days are future, literal days (the former as part of the latter), after the church is caught up. He sees the two witnesses as future individuals prophesying. He teaches that Satan is bound during the future Millennium. Edwards' teaching stands in stark contrast with the predominant historicism of his day which interpreted the Antichrist as the papal system and the above prophetic days as years."

Indeed it does! And not only that, it shows a clarity that even predicts events that we now view as past history.

For example, he wrote that before the Millennium, the Turks would be removed from Israel and the Jews would be restored to their own land. The return of the Jews, of course, is the hallmark of latter-day prophecy.

Marotta adds, "The careful reader will note that there are some important elements where Edwards differs from dispensational teaching. One of the most important is his denial of an any-moment coming. He allows for events prior to the rapture, including activity of the two witnesses. Also, he accepted the idea that the Millennium would commence in 1996, based on the theory that human history will be 7,000 years long and the Millennium would commence after the first 6,000 years are complete."

On this last score, let's hope that Morgan Edwards was right! One thing is certain, we know that the time is short, Edwards' theology was amazingly advanced. Or, to put it more accurately, the Lord spoke through him in a remarkable way.

The next time someone tries to convince you that Pretribulationism is a bogus idea that was first hatched in the nineteenth century, take the time to mention Morgan Edwards. In the eighteenth century, he correctly interpreted the return of Israel to the Land, the catching away of the church prior to the Tribulation and the rise of an evil antichrist.

All these ideas, of course, accurately emerge when one simply follows Morgan Edwards' lead. Interpret the Scriptures literally, except when doing so produces contradiction, or an absurdity.

Finally, our thanks to Frank Marotta for his excellent documentation of this man's life and work.



Gary Stearman writes for Prophecy in the News

Questions or Comments: E-mail Dr. Jerry R. Church at jerryc@icon.net





Although we do not agree with everything that Rev. Edwards believed. He did show much wisdom in his teaching on the Pretribulation Rapture. -- John Henry, Landmark Bible Baptist Network Web Servant



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