In honor of us all ‘surviving’ this weekend’s apocalypse, here’s a brief bio on Morgan Edwards, a colonial-era historian and pastor, most notable for preaching the 'Rapture.'
According to its theological definition the Rapture is: “a reference to the Biblical passage when in the ‘End Times’ the Christians of the world will be gathered together to meet their Savior Jesus Christ. The primary passage used to support the idea of the Rapture is 1 Thessalonians 4:15–7, in which the apostle Paul cites ‘the word of the Lord’ about the return of Christ to gather his saints....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.”
Morgan Edwards is said to have been one of the first ministers to preach on the concept of the Rapture long before it was embraced by portions of the evangelical church. Born in Wales, Edwards attended and graduated from Bristol College before assuming the life of a full-time preacher in 1738. After pastoring churches in England for seven years, he moved to Ireland and led worship there for almost a decade before immigrating to the American Colonies. Upon his arrival in 1761, Edwards was appointed as the pastor of the Baptist Church in Philadelphia. While there he became the only clergyman from that denomination to side with the Tories during the Revolutionary War. ‘Toryism’ was a traditionalist and conservative political philosophy that was often embraced by those who remained loyal to the British Crown. In many cases Tories or Loyalists of any kind were branded as traitors and publicly humiliated or ridiculed. Edward’s position as a man of the cloth no doubt protected him from retribution.
Edwards left the pulpit in 1771 and became one of the most respected Christian historians of the day. Some Baptist scholars credit him as being the first of his denomination to record and publish chronicles of the church. In 1770 he finished his first major work titled Materials Toward A History of the Baptists in Pennsylvania presenting the origins of the Baptist Church in America and in 1792 he added a companion volume titled Materials Toward A History of the Baptists in New Jersey. He also wrote 42 volumes of sermons (12 per volume) that were never printed.
In 1764 Edwards joined a group of influential public figures (including the Reverends Manning, Stiles, Backus, Gano, Stillman, Ellery, as well as former Royal Governors Hopkins and Ward) in order to charter the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations which would later become known as Brown University. As an Ivy League school, Brown was the first Baptist College in the original thirteen colonies. Edwards died in Delaware in 1795 (Read funeral sermon) and was buried back near his church in Philadelphia. Most notable in Edward’s legacy as a minister was his progressive-teachings of the concept of “pretribulationism,” in which believers would be translated into Heaven prior to the events of the Tribulation as recorded in the Book of Revelations. In 1788 Edwards wrote that:
The distance between the first and second resurrection will be somewhat more than a thousand years. I say, somewhat more—, because the dead saints will be raised, and the living changed at Christ’s “appearing in the air” (I Thes. iv. 17); and this will be about three years and a half before the millennium, as we shall see hereafter: but will he and they abide in the air all that time? No: they will ascend to paradise, or to some one of those many “mansions in the father’s house” (John xiv. 2), and disappear during the foresaid period of time. The design of this retreat and disappearing will be to judge the risen and changed saints; for “now the time is come that judgment must begin,” and that will be “at the house of God” (I Pet. iv. 17).
Perhaps time will tell if Morgan Edwards was right. We now know that this past Saturday's anticipated "Judgment Day" (5/21/2011) failed to live up to many believers expectations. Perhaps they should have opened their bibles to Matthew 24:36 where it says that: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."