by Dave MacPherson
In my first book ("The Unbelievable Pre-Trib Origin," 1973) at the end of my chapter on "The Macdonald Clan" I wrote this:
"Somewhere in this big world there must be some more old documents throwing further light on Miss Margaret Macdonald and her Pre-Trib revelation of 1830. Maybe this book will encourage someone to search for them. And then share them."
Back then, while beginning what Wheaton College prof Arthur Katterjohn called my "pioneer research" on pretrib beginnings, I had no idea that during the next few decades I would be privileged to unearth enough long-forgotten "rapture" facts to fill seven more books and many hundreds of articles.
Margaret's biographer, Robert Norton M.D., had briefly mentioned in one of his books that she had been married at the time of her death - news included in my first book. But nowhere had Norton revealed her husband's name or the exact dates and locations of her birth and death.
Quite some time later I discovered that European scholar Timothy C. F. Stunt's comprehensive work "From Awakening to Secession" (2000) referred on p. 284 to the "Irvingite historian Robert Norton, who married Margaret Macdonald...." Stunt's source was the "Journal of the European Pentecostal Theological Association, xvi. 1996, 63-4." But unfortunately Stunt did not provide an exact quote from that publication.
Although Stunt (who at times seems to target critics of dispensationalism) was inadvertently helping me in my worldwide search for more facts about Margaret, I still didn't know the details about her marriage or the exact dates of her birth and death.
Not terribly long ago my continuing search for more Macdonaldiana found me noticing a feature titled "The Problem with the Rapture" (2008) on the "Ministerial Musings" blog. Some comments at the end stated that Dr. Timothy Stunt had claimed that Margaret had married Dr. Norton. The next person to comment was Timothy Stunt himself who revealed that "Robert Norton married Margaret Macdonald on 31 October 1835 at Port Glasgow, [county of] Renfrew Scotland in the parish registers. See the International Genealogical Index."
Again Stunt failed to include a quotation for his claim. And I was still in the dark on definite dates for Margaret's birth and death. (Wikipedia has "1815" and "around 1840" for her birth and death years.)
Well, the story isn't over. Just a few days ago, while Googling "Margaret Norton (Port Glasgow, 1830s)," I was directed to the Watt Library in Greenock, a town a couple miles west of Port Glasgow. (That library was named after James Watt, inventor of the first modern steam engine, who was born in Greenock in 1736.)
After Googling "Watt Library, Greenock Births, Marriages and Death Index: Letter N Surnames," I found this notice which had appeared in the "Greenock Advertiser" on Nov. 23, 1841:
"Margaret Norton, wife of Robert Norton M.D. died at Brougham Street Greenock on 20th November 1841."
Finally - here was something exact about Margaret's death that was found in an exact source!
Here's more exactness:
My writings have consistently stated that the Irvingites (Edward Irving's followers), as well as Margaret, taught a pretrib rapture long before John Darby did.
My book "The Rapture Plot" (p. 9) quotes Irving's journal ("The Morning Watch," Sep. 1830, p. 510) on Irvingism's view of Revelation's seven churches:
"The Philadelphian church expresses the period of that preparation, until the Lord come to the air, and be met by his saints changed and risen.
"The Laodicean church (the only one yet entirely future) is our sad monitor concerning the history of the church on earth during that period of great tribulation which shall intervene between the coming of the Lord to the air and the establishment of his throne and rest in Zion."
The same writer on following pages explained "great tribulation" as "the great tribulation" (which he tied to Rev. 3:10, Luke 21:36 etc.).
This journal, which previously had been teaching only the historic posttrib view, suddenly began clearly teaching a pretrib coming (as shown) - after some of its writers had visited Margaret a few weeks earlier - and the above quote reflected Margaret's partial rapturistic pretrib view which saw some of the church in a pretrib rapture and the rest of the church left on earth during the great tribulation.
It's strange (or not so strange!) that this monumental quote about Philadelphia and Laodicea is totally missing in the most quoted histories of dispensationalism (and the Plymouth Brethren) - histories more often than not written for the plaudits of fellow scholars and not for folks like the "common people" (Mark 12:37) who listened to Jesus "gladly" - the people I like to reach also.
If "The Morning Watch" didn't get its new pretrib view from Margaret, I challenge everyone - scholar and commoner alike - to find who or what did inspire that journal's change of doctrine.
Incidentally, if Darby adopted a pretrib rapture as early as 1827, as some pretrib leaders assert, why do his published papers (1828-1830) teach only a posttrib rapture? And if he already had his "church/Israel dichotomy" in 1827, why in his 1837 paper did he "see" the church "going in with Him to the marriage, to wit, with Jerusalem and the Jews"? Darby didn't clearly teach pretrib until 1839, and his scriptural basis for this was only the "rapture" of Rev. 12:5's "man child" - a symbol/support for pretrib that had been used first for the same purpose by Irving eight years earlier in "The Morning Watch"!
If you are curious about the Margaret who is one of the most influential females of all time, I invite you to Google "Pretrib Rapture Diehards," "X-Raying Margaret," "Edward Irving is Unnerving," "Thomas Ice (Bloopers)," "Walvoord Melts Ice," "Pretrib Rapture Secrecy," "Pretrib Rapture - Hidden Facts," and "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty." My 300-page work "The Rapture Plot" is available online at Armageddon Books etc. Google "Scholars Weigh My Research" for reactions to my research from leading scholars.
In closing I want to publicly thank our good friend Joe Ortiz for airing discoveries of mine on his distinctive and much needed web sites (like "The End Times Passover" blog) which also offer his scholarly theological books on Bible prophecy.