A
SECOND LOOK AT
THE SECOND COMING

by

Henry T. Hudson


About the Author
   
Dr. Henry T. Hudson has had a wide and varied career.  He was born in England where he received his primary and secondary education.   He was converted to Jesus Christ at the age of 17. He served in the Royal Military Police and was in charge of the Anti-Vice Squad in the city of Trieste, Italy.

After military service, he continued his education both in Europe and the United States. He holds diplomas from Grace Bible College, Universita per Stranieri, Malone College, Kent State University, Chicago Graduate School of Theology, and American Christian College. Besides his thirty years in pastoral ministry, he worked in evangelism in Europe, and has taught his-tory, philosophy, and Bible on both the college and university levels. His larger books include: Papal Power: Its Origins and Develop-ment, Baptism in the Bible, Spiritual Growth and Development, What Did Jesus Preach? Thessalonians: Then and Now, Preach the Word, Map and Territory, Ahead Lies Yesterday and Tomorrow, Hold Fast the Form of Sound Words, Putting it all Together, Henceforth, a Crown of Righteousness.



Dedication

    ".... IRON SHARPENETH IRON; SO A MAN SHARPENETH THE COUNTENANCE OF HIS FRIEND...."    PROVERBS 27:17   

Of all the men I have known,  few have exemplified the noble spirit of the Bereans as has my life-long friend Jim Forrest (Acts 17:11). He stood by my side when this booklet was first published, and has been a solid source of encouragement down through the years. "Thanks" and ever "thanks."   
       
       


Preface

After proofing the third edition of this booklet (2008) prior to sending it to the printer, my mind wandered back and forth over the various related happenings of the last thirty years since the first edition saw the light of day. As I thought back over the years, there were moments when I smiled to myself, and there were times when tears came to my eyes. The reason for the mixed emotions were related to the manifold reactions and con-sequences that followed once the booklet was published and distributed.  For one thing, it led to the revoking of my ordination certificate.  It closed many doors to pulpit ministry.  It also disrupted fellowship with some that I had counted as being close friends.  How strange that a new nineteenth cen-tury doctrinal theory could cause such disruption of fellowship? As I thought about these happenings I couldn’t help but concur that there was some truth to the oft-repeated aphorism that history tends to repeat itself.

History is a fascinating field of study, although, having taught history, both on the high school and college level, I know that not all students share my enthusiasm. Even seasoned scholars have been known to look askance at its practical value. From such, we often hear the facetious quip, often attributed to Hegel, that "We learn from history that we do not learn from history."  Sad to say, there is more truth in this statement than most historians might care to admit. However, most people would probably admit that experience is a fairly reliable guide to sensible action, and what is history other than accumulated human experience?

Would that my knowledge of history thirty years ago was what it is today. Certainly, I would have been better prepared for the reactions of colleagues in the ministry to the content of my booklet. For example, I’m sure I would not have been so naive. Like Martin Luther I somehow or other made the mistake of thinking that all I had to do was to turn on the light of truth, and the darkness of error would vanish of its own accord. Also, taking another lesson from the experience of Luther, I would have been better able to recognize that there is a difference between intentions and consequences. There can be no doubting the fact that when Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517 he had no intention of breaking with the Roman Catholic Church.  His primary concern was to measure "sins and errors" by the standard of Holy Scripture.  He had come to realize that the ecclesiastical authorities of his day had drifted away from what he believed was “The true treasure of the church” which in Thesis 62 of his Ninety Five Theses, he had called, “the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.” However, by 1520, his action had led indirectly to his excommunication.  Of course, it goes without saying that there is great poverty of comparison between my paltry experiences and those of Martin Luther, but my mind nevertheless was attracted to certain parallels, as distant as they might be.  Leaving Luther, I called to mind the treatment of Galileo and Kepler concerning the treatment they received for their stand with Copernicus in opposition to the Ptolemaic world system. 

It was in 1632 that Galileo effected the publication of his Dialogo dei Massimi Sistemi, (Dialogue on the Great World Systems), wherein he argued implicitly for the Copernican heliocentric system, against that of the Ptolemaic geocentric system.  Little did Galileo realize the chain of events he was to set in motion.  In less than six months the printer was ordered to stop its sale; and two months later Galileo was commanded to appear for trial in Rome. There, before the Tribunal of the Inquisition, threatened with torture, he was forced to recant in the most abject terms (how I thank God that there is no such inquisition today).

Galileo was up against the insidious manipulations instigated by the Jesuits.  They employed such scare tactics and brow beatings as to claim that he was more dangerous than Luther and Calvin. They readily recognized that his views threatened to undo volumes of printed works, and that once dis-tributed, would have an unsettling effect in disturbing vested interests. They used questionable Scriptures against him, and sunk to the depth of lies and forgeries to implicate him. His defense against such tactics, even though to no avail, had been recorded earlier in his famous Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany. He charged his adversaries with "Showing a greater fondness for their own opinions than for truth...." He was simply asking that the book of Copernicus "be not condemned without under-standing it, without hearing it, without even having seen it."  He pleaded: "Do not put the faithful in the position of being able to convince themselves of the truth of a doctrine which it is a sin to believe."  Galileo believed that the Bible was infallible. His "great sin" was that while he held that the Scriptures could not err, he declared that its interpreters could!  In other words, he kept a clear distinction in his mind between divine inspiration and human interpretation.   

In this regard, I would offer one further lesson from Galileo. When my mind began thinking of his tragic confrontation with the ecclesiastical authorities of his day, I could not help but think of a passage from his Dialogo which had made a profound impression upon me when first I read it years ago in the Antologia della Letterature Italiana (Vol. II, pp. 498-499, 77, Attilio Momigliano).  The recollection caused me to find and re-read the excerpt.  When I had finished, I had to smile at the profuse underlinings.  Let me set the scene so that the reader might better appreciate the application. The dialogo is between Sig. Salviati, Sig. Sagredo, and Sig. Simplicio. It is the second day of dialogue and Simplicio has acknowledged the plausibility of the notions discussed on the previous day, but to be safe, he takes recourse to "the authority of great writers." Sagredo's response is a grin, because it reminds him of an episode that took place a few years earlier. Salviati suggests that Sagredo would be well advised to relate the incident, lest Simplicio take offence.  Sagredo did so:

“Very well.” He began, “One day at his home in Venice, I found a famous physician to whom some flocked for their studies, while others sometimes came thither out of curiosity to see certain bodies dissected by the hand of a no less learned than careful and experienced anatomist. It chanced upon that day, when I was there, that he was in search of the origin and stem of the nerves, about which there is a famous controversy between the Galenists and Peripatetics. The anatomist shewed how the great trunk of nerves, departing from the brain, their root, passed by the nape of the neck, extended themselves afterwards along the backbone, and branched out through all the body, while only a very small filament, as fine as a thread, went to the heart. Then he turned to a gentleman whom he knew to be a Peripatetic philosopher, and for whose sake he had uncovered and proved everything, and asked if he was satisfied and persuaded that the origin of the nerves was in the brain and not in the heart. The philosopher, after he had stood musing a while, answered: "You have made me see this business so plainly and sensibly that did not the text of Aristotle assert the contrary, which positively affirms the nerves to proceed from the heart, I should be constrained to confess your opinion to be true."

What does this anecdote have to do with the content of my booklet?  The reader would have to understand the long-time basic assumption that Holy Scripture is the final authority in matters of faith and practice, and then the connection would probably be only too obvious.  In case the reader fails to see the connection, let me take the liberty to alter the last sentence in a few places so that it is made clear.  For example, it could be as follows: "The sincere minister, after he had finished reading the arguments and reviewing the evidence presented from Holy Scripture, stood musing for a while then exclaimed: 'You have made me see this whole matter so plainly that did not the commentary of Dr. Prominent Bible Expert, and the leaders in my denomination hold to the contrary, I should be constrained to confess that the facts and arguments you present are true.'"

One final word concerning lessons from the experiences of Galileo. Some historians have expressed the opinion that, generally speaking, what hap-pened in the case of Galileo had deleterious effects upon the progress of civilization in Italy.  Certainly, it hurt the advancement of scientific knowledge.  It was not until some two hundred years later that the Roman Catholic Church withdrew the works of Galileo from her Index of Prohibited Books.  Let it be remembered and never forgotten, that behind this great tragedy was a religious leadership prompted "sincerely" by a false interpretation of Holy Scripture.  Herein lies the main lesson.  It concerns the possibility of serious consequences being inherent in the erroneous interpretation of Holy Scripture.   



INTRODUCTION

Finding myself caught in the current of controversy, I was obliged to set down in writing the results of a reexamination of a doctrine, which I had held for many years to be the inspired teaching of Holy Scripture. The doctrine in question concerns the theory that there will be a coming of Jesus Christ before that period of time that Scripture refers to as “the great tribulation.” (Mat. 24:15-31; Rev.7:14). The matter would have remained comparatively inconsequential had it not brought about my dismissal from the mission with which I had enjoyed a blessed and fruitful ministry and also an eventual “defrocking” process. Oddly enough, the issue would not have come up if the mission board had remained true to their original doctrinal statement, but they had just recently revised their doctrinal statement to support the pretribulational theory.  And I had just recently studied this very theory, and discovered that it could not be found anywhere in Holy Scripture.

Throughout history there has often been manifested a tendency to dismiss, or ostracize and excommunicate anyone who does not conform to what is popular traditional convictions.  On the one hand, the claim is made that the Bible is the final court of appeal, but on the other hand, the causative force turns out to be what is more often than not a human traditional statement of faith.  This causative force is ironically often in evidence at the same time that testimony is proffered to expose what is heard and what is read to the searchlight of the Word of God.  

I would add one final introductory comment. In any doctrinal dispute there is always inherent danger.  It can produce a manifestation of emotions that are decidedly unChristian.  Also, the disputants can be found unwittingly misrepresenting one another, and worse than this, sometimes they even permit personal prejudices to cause the fabrication of outright lies. Such repercussions as these must always be guarded against.  The disputants on both sides should have one objective: to know the truth of Holy Scripture, nothing more, nothing less.   

However, a passion for truth that is without genuine love is nothing but vanity (1 Cor. 13:1,2). Unless such passion springs from a heart that is alive with the love of Christ, it becomes a cold mechanical end in itself. The believers at Ephesus were guilty of this sin (cf. Rev. 2:1-7). They carefully tested the teachings of others, but at the same time had left their first love. The moment truth becomes merely theoretical and not practical, it ceases to achieve its divinely intended function. Let those who are united in a common bond of loyalty to the Word of God be ever awake to these dangers for they can seriously affect fellowship, and the furtherance of the Gospel.

Doubting the Doctrine

There will be many sincere believers who will wonder why I even began to doubt this doctrine, because in their experience (as it was mine), they have never heard anything but the pretribulation theory.  It would therefore be quite natural for them to consider it to be the divinely inspired teaching of the Word of God.  It may come as a severe shock to some of them to hear that there is not one single verse anywhere in Holy Scripture that explicitly affirms the rapture of the Church before the tribulation.  Because they have heard it all the time from the lips of godly men they are convinced that it must be true. According to Robert Norton, the first seeds of the doctrine seem to have been planted by a young woman named Margaret MacDonald in the Spring of 1830.  They were present in an ecstatic utterance that she made connected with the doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ.  J. N. Darby, one of the "founding fathers" of the Plymouth Brethren movement, (Nineteenth Century) refined the doctrine, which in its first stages inclined toward a limited, partial rapture idea.  However, more than anything it was probably the Scofield Bible Notes, published in the early years of the twentieth century, that can be credited with refining and popularizing the theory.  Darby stayed in the home of Miss MacDonald in the middle of 1830. (Cf. Robert Norton, The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets in the Catholic Apostolic Church, London:1861, p.15. See also Dave MacPherson, The Incredible Cover-Up, Plainfield, New Jersey, Logos International, 1975, pp. 83, 85).

Another significantly paradoxical fact, of which few pretrib believers seem to be aware is the diversity of opinion which exists among their ranks as to which passages of Scripture supposedly teach the theory.  There seems to be general agreement that it is found in 1 Thessalonians 4, but the simple face value meaning of what is stated there has no reference to two future comings, or to any chronological feature that would conclusively lead the reader to understand that the coming being described is to take place before the Great Tribulation. When this passage is compared with 1 Thessalonians 5, and 2 Thessalonians chapters 1 and 2 the theory of two future comings is totally discredited.   Another strange feature of the controversy can be found in the fact that those who advocate the theory cannot agree among themselves which passages of Scripture are the Pretrib-coming passages in the New Testament and which are the Posttrib passages. How well I remem-ber the discussion between two outstanding Bible students over Colossians 3:1-4.  The same can be said of 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10. This phenomenon alone should placard a warning.  Then, there are some Pretrib Bible students who even reject 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Strange indeed, because as was just stated, this is probably the main passage for supporting the pretribu-lation-coming theory.  However, as any reader can check for himself, should he be so inclined, there is not one jot or tittle to this end in either the near or distant context.
   
There might be a latent clue concerning why certain dispensationalists argue that there is no Pretrib Coming in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. It is because they possess a presupposition that Acts chapter 28 marks a boundary line in God’s dealings with the nation of Israel and any reference to the coming of Jesus Christ prior to this boundary must refer to prophecy and must be connected with the hope of Israel.  Hence, they fail to find any pretrib coming in any of Paul's pre-prison epistles.  Ironically, these epistles are the main strong hold of the more moderate dispensationalists and it is to them they claim to find their main support for their Pretrib theory.  This, once again, ought to tell the reader something about the nature of the theory. There apparently lurks a premise that promotes a system of logic that is independent of the clear statements of Scripture. It should also put the reader on guard when it comes to logical arguments based on questionable premises.  Confronted by such a confusing array of conflicting opinions, is it any wonder that I became confused and felt a need to reexamine the whole theory of a Pretrib Coming of Christ?      Surely, would not simple straight-forward study of all the verses in their contexts settle which is which?  How well I remember my naïve excitement when I began to consider the possibility of actually taking up the challenge?  It was not to determine the truth of the Pretrib theory.  I was convinced that the theory was the explicit truth of Scripture.  My main guideline in prompting my reconsideration of the biblical doctrine concerning the future Coming of Christ was to determine which passages belong to the Pretrib coming and which to the Posttrib coming.

Three Major Dispensational Schools

Generally speaking, there are three major schools of dispensational interpre-tation. Usually, differentiation is made between them by determining the historical point in the Acts of the Apostles at which it is supposed that the Church had its historical beginning: (1) Acts 2. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, (2) Acts 9-13. The conversion or commission of Paul, and (3) Acts 28. The historical setting aside of the nation of Israel.  These three contentions are presuppositions, for there is no clear statement that at any given historical point in the Acts of the Apostles that the Church had its beginning.  Holy Scripture does not state when it began! 

All three of these different positions profess belief in the personal premil-lennial coming of Christ. In one way or another, this means that they all hold to a posttribulational coming.  We have yet to meet an informed dispensationalist who did not believe that the Lord Jesus Christ would return in power and glory following the period of time which Holy Scripture calls the great tribulation (Rev. 7:14). However, as mentioned earlier, the conflict and the confusion relates primarily to arguments about which passages supposedly teach a pretrib coming.  Let it be noted and acknowledged that there is not one passage anywhere in Holy Scripture that explicitly attests to this theory.

In this regard then, the more thoughtful reader will readily come to understand that the arguments supporting a pretrib coming are shaped by preunderstandings, rather than a straightforward exegesis of any particular passage of Scripture. Keeping in mind these three major schools, it is interesting to highlight once more the three different portions of Holy Scripture from which the pretrib doctrine can supposedly be found.

(1) (Acts 2) The Pretrib Coming in the Gospels and Epistles.   
(2) (Mid-Acts) The Pretrib Coming in the Pauline Epistles (Some concede the General Epistles also).   
(3) (Acts 28) The Pretrib Coming only in the Prison Epistles.
   
Let the reader give serious thought to these three different approaches to the question at hand.  It should soon become obvious that the reasoning springs from certain premises concerning the nature and historical origin of the church, rather than any face value exegesis. In other words, the Pretrib-coming is only for the Church of God that had its historical beginning at sometime during or after the Acts period. The theory is that this coming is a distinct coming and that it has its realization at a time prior to the Great Tribulation and that it is a "secret" wherein the saints who are alive at the time when it takes place silently disappear from the earth and are called up to a meeting with the Lord in the air.  Such thinking seems to inadvertently close its eyes to certain facts that there really is only one future coming that:   
1. Takes place at the end of the tribulation, that is, at the last trump (see Mat. 24:29; I Thess. 4:16, I Cor. 15:52, Rev. 11:14),   
2. It is intimately associated with the Kingdom of God (1 Thess. 2:12, 2 Thess. 5; I Cor. 15:50),
3. It is not a secret-silent event, but rather a loud, clattering, noisy event (vis-a-vis a shout, a voice and a trumpet blast, etc.) .l

A humble ordinary rank and file believer has every right to scratch his head in bewilderment at all that I have said. Can anyone not fail to wonder why he wants to know how it is possible for some to see a Pretrib coming in a portion of Scripture while others categorically deny its existence in the same passage? We ask again, were we in error when we felt that something was basically wrong with the pretribulational theory?  Most careful readers will readily grasp that the contention behind the theory does not come from a direct study of the question itself, but rather from elaborate reasonings which are considered to be more consistent to some particular doctrinal view of the Church.  In fact, one of America's leading pretribulationists, Dr. John F. Walvoord, goes so far as to inform us that: "It is therefore not too much to say that the rapture question is determined more by ecclesiology than eschatology."' John F. Walvoord, The Rapture Question (Findlay: 1957), p. 16.

This is a very revealing admission, for it openly displays the glaring weak-ness in the pretrib approach to the study of the Scripture.  In so many words, we are told that the exegesis of eschatological passages is determined by the exegesis of uneschatological passages.  Maybe this might sound like double talk, but in actual fact what it means is that the interpretation of passages dealing with the coming of Christ must be made to fit into some previously accepted system of doctrine.

Such thinking is an example of what is meant by the deductive approach to biblical truth.  Is it any wonder that so much confusion exists even among those who hold to a similar position?  Christians need to be always on their guard against the deductive approach that tends to reason in advance of the facts. Our doctrine should always come from an exegetical inductive study of the pertinent biblical passages.  The process should always follow the steps:  Find, Filter, Fuse, and Follow the facts.

Test of Orthodoxy

In spite of the questionable historical roots, and the shaky scriptural base of the pretrib doctrine, there are many Christian organizations that include it in their doctrinal statements.  With some, it has become an uncompromising basis of fellowship and an unequivocal test of orthodoxy.  It seems to bother them little that there is not one single explicit verse to support their view, or that there is great disagreement as to what specific Scriptures they can use to set forth their theory.  And yet, notwithstanding these facts, unless one is willing to sign a pretrib doctrinal statement, he is considered unfaithful to the truth.  It is strange indeed that Christian leaders could be so deceived as to believe that the time element of the coming of Christ in relation to the Tribulation is of such great importance that it should form the basis of fellowship and cooperation in the work of the Gospel.  Surely, "an enemy hath done this" and it is high time to give this whole matter serious recon-sideration.  It is time to become sincere Bereans (Acts 17:11).

It was such things as has thus far have been mentioned, plus some bother-some textual difficulties, that first caused me to reexamine my own doc-trinal position on the coming of Christ.  I needed to take a second look at the Second Coming.  In my initial studies, I decided to put aside whatever books I possessed on the subject. I determined to give prayerful attention to the wording of Scripture alone. I had no axe to grind, no denominational dogma to defend, just a sincere desire to understand the truth.  The question was not what do others think, or what does our position necessitate, but only what does the Word of God teach?  So with this objective in mind, I set about to examine every reference in the New Testament that was in anyway related to the return of Christ.  Being in full-time Christian service, time was definitely limited, but within the period of two years I had accomplished the goal.

The effect of these reexaminations was very startling, for to my amazement I could not find one solitary Scripture verse to support a pretribulation coming of Christ.  Being deeply concerned, I then proceeded to read every relevant book I could find. I was anxious to test my conclusions with that of others who had made a study of the subject.  Providential circumstances found me just a few blocks away from one of the finest theological libraries in the country, and I feel sure that no notable work in the field escaped my consideration. Not only were my conclusions confirmed, but I was greatly encouraged to discover that many great Bible teachers and preachers had taught the same position to which my independent studies had led me.  One of them, Nathaniel West (who, according to Wilbur M. Smith, was a student of such depth of learning and insight into the Prophetic Scriptures as cannot, be found in America today), after examining the pretrib theory for himself, had this to say:

“We need not pursue this theory further. It aggravates. It is built on a postulate, vicious in logic, violent in exegesis, contrary to experience, repudiated by the early Church, contradicted by the testimony of eighteen hundred years, rejected by all the three schools of interpretation, and condemned by all the standard scholars of every age." (See the Foreword of Nathaniel West, The Thousand Years (Fincastle, Virginia, n.d. original printing, 1889) v., p. 10.  I could mention a few others of similar opinion:  E.G. Robert Cameron, W. J. Erdman, W. G. Moorehead (these last two were consulting editors to the original Scofield Reference Bible) , S. P. Tregelles, B. W. Newton, Theodore. Zahn, G. Muller, Thomas Houghton, Alexander Reese, Henry W. Frost; J. Sidlow Baxter, Oswald J. Smith, Harold J. Ockenga, George E. Ladd, J. Barton Payne, Norman F. Douty, and Robert H. Gundry). 

Nathaniel West went further and elsewhere wrote concerning the theory: "It is an assumption, a petitio, a circulus probandi, a non sequitor.  Kelly himself called it an ‘assumption.’  In other words, it assumes what it professes to prove. And yet, it offers itself as a matter of faith to thousands of the best and noblest Christian men and women, intelligent, devout, earnest, evangelical, brave and faithful, who, without a thorough examina-tion, have received it as true!" (Nathaniel West, The Apostle Paul and the Any Moment Theory (Philadelphia, n.p..1893), pp. 30, 31.   

These words will undoubtedly come across to many Pretrib believers as being unduly harsh, but suppose West is correct?  If for one moment Christians could entertain this possibility, then they would readily perceive how the theory could indeed be a dangerous doctrinal distortion, and that the consequences, particularly for those living in the end times, could indeed be filled with serious consequences. Rather than being angry at West's evaluation, let the Pretrib reader pick up the gauntlet.  Let him take the Bible, let him search and see if what he has been taught is really so.    

The Second Coming of Christ

The New Testament is unambiguously straightforward in its presentation of the fact that Christ will come again (E.G. Acts 1:11; 1 Cor. 1:7; 1 Thess. 1:10; 2 Thess. 1:7-10, et passim). Among those brethren concerned with the controversy prompting this study, there is no disagreement that Christ will return before the Millennial Kingdom (Rev. 19:11-20:6). They are in com-plete concord that there will be at least one future coming of Christ.

How does a concerned student go about determining if there will be two future comings?  Does Matthew 24:29-31 describes one coming chrono-logically set after the tribulation, and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 a separate coming before? With regard to the latter, is it possible that the conclusion is being read into the passage?      

Nevertheless, on the basis of certain inferences that are derived primarily from differences in the details of the latter passage a different coming is implied. However, a moment of sober reflection should soon convince any reasonable reader that such logic could, for example, lead to deductions that could argue for more than one crucifixion, or more than one resurrection of Christ.  Do we not find different details in various accounts with reference to these matters?   

Perhaps, to some this observation will be judged invalid because "we" know that there is only one crucifixion of Christ.  True indeed, just as "we" know that there is only one future Coming of Christ!  Not so, exclaims the pretribulationist, for the one passage speaks of a being caught up (a rapture, from the Latin rapio, to seize, to snatch), while the other passage mentions no such thing.  Anyone who uses this argument to prove that it is a different coming would have to confess, if he were at all concerned about being consistent, that this is the one and only passage in the New Testament that teaches a “catching up” of believers, for it is the only passage where the verb, harpazo, caught up, is used in connection with the return of Christ.  At the same time, a consideration in context of 2 Thessalonians 2:1, while speaking of a gathering unto Jesus Christ, makes it clear that it will happen after the future great apostasy and revelation of the Antichrist.  There is also the fact that with regard to the Matthew passage, it is stated that he will send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather his elect from the four winds (Mat. 24:30, 31). When Paul spoke of the last trumpet sounding at the second coming of Christ he made it very clear that it would be in fulfillment of prophecy (1 Cor. 15:52-57).
   
If an interpreter were to make the use of different details and distinctive words as being the criterion to establish the doctrine that there is more than one future coming, then there would be no end to the number of comings he could discover. I will be making a more detailed study of this approach before too long, but for the moment I am concerned with how anyone could prove definitely that the two passages in question could establish the doctrine of two different comings - separated by at least seven years.  If anyone should ask why this matter should be of such great importance, we remind them that underlying my reasons for reexamining pretribulationism, besides the constant concern for the truth, is the sincere hope that pretrib brethren will be prompted to reconsider the rationale which makes pretrib doctrine a basis for fellowship and cooperation in the cause of the Gospel.

Since the principal concern of this study is the time element of the coming of Christ, and since 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 seems to be a principal pretrib passage, we would do well to emphasize once again that it does not say that Christ's coming will precede the tribulation.  In fact, let us not hesitate to repeat also that one would search the New Testament in vain to find such a statement. That Christ will come after the tribulation, Matthew 24:29-31 leaves no doubt. How is it then that Christian organizations can make pretribulationism an essential part of their doctrinal statement? Surely, there must be at least one passage of Scripture with some chronological indication that there will be a coming of Christ before the tribulation! Admittedly, this exclamation might sound somewhat facetious, but to the Christian who desires to emulate the noble Bereans of Acts 17:11, the sentiment it contains is certainly most reasonable.
   
Let all Christians never tire of telling themselves that the Bible is the sola fidei regula (the only rule of faith). Preconceived prophetical schemes are in abundance, and apparently it is easy to be taken in by the popularity and prestige of dynamic human teachers. Usually, most Christians learn biblical doctrine while young in the faith, and the process takes place before they learn to have a healthy scepticism about man-made doctrinal traditions. Generally, doctrinal devotion is received second hand from whoever happens to be the teacher. Rarely does it come ad fontes, that is, directly from Holy Scripture. Such is easy to understand, but the sooner Christians are able to say, like Aristotle of old, "Amicus Plato, sed magis  amica veri-tas," (Dear is Plato, but dearer still is truth), the stronger will be their Christian commitment.  However, such an attitude is not easy to possess, but with all the biblical warnings about the existence of false doctrine, both by the Lord and his apostles, it is one that is obviously of great importance. Of course, this warning should be applied to what is being composed in the following pages, as well as to what others have written.  My main intention has been to provide guidelines to the relevant passages so that Christians can research the basic question for themselves.  The guidelines are designed to keep before the reader the main objective, which is to consider whether or not there are any chronological indicators whereby the coming of Christ might be viewed in relation to that period of time that Scripture calls the Great Tribulation.  Let it be clearly understood that I do not mean that I am trying to establish dates. Perish such a thought! This would not only be foolish, but it would fly right into the face of Scripture itself, for we are clearly told: "Of that day and that hour knoweth no man" (Mark 13:32). However, there does seem to be a definite chronological sequence of events in the unfolding of biblical prophecy. And it is within this sequence that I would consider the verses to be considered.   

The Seventieth Week of Daniel

One of the very common expressions in discussions centering upon biblical prophecy is the term "the seventieth week of Daniel." In answer to his prayer for his people and the city of Jerusalem, Daniel is told that "Seventy weeks are determined" upon them (Dan. 9:24). There is general agreement among most commentators that these weeks refer to years and not days. The Hebrews used a septenary scale of reckoning, and the expression "seventy weeks" means literally "seventy sevens." We have an example of this in Genesis 29:18-28.

And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel,...And Jacob served seven years....Fulfill her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years. And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also.   

Seventy times seven equals 490.  Such a period of time is not new in the divine dealings with the children of Israel. From Abraham to Joshua to the establishment of the kingdom; from the Kingdom to the captivity all appear to be periods of 490 years, and according to Daniel 9:24, there is once again another period of 490 years "divided off" upon Israel and Jerusalem. At the end of this final period, six things will be effected:   


1. The shutting up of transgression   
2. The sealing up of sins   
3. The covering up of iniquity   
4. The bringing in of everlasting righteousness   
5. The sealing up of vision and prophecy   
6. The anointing of the Holy of Holies.   

It would seem that the first three concern sin and the last three the rule of righteousness. By looking at other Scriptures, the terminal point of the final 490 years can be determined.  For example:

(1) The restraining of the transgressor (cf. Rev. 20) ;   
(2) The making an end of sins (cf. Rom. 11:26,27);
(3) The purging away of iniquity (cf. Isa. 4:3,4);
(4) The bringing in of everlasting righteousness (cf. Jer. 31:33-40) ;
(5) The sealing up of vision and prophecy (cf. Jer. 31:34. The prophet will not be needed, for sin will be under restraint); and
(6) The anointing of the most holy (Zech. 6:11-13).   

The commencement of the seventieth week is marked off by a significant political event. A covenant is made between a person of prominence (a prince), and the nation of Israel. This prediction contains some interesting implications for the pretrib-coming theory. Generally, the theory claims that the coming will be followed immediately by the seventieth week. Now this would mean that pretrib believing Christians could be expected to keep their eyes open for the person who will be the eschatological end-time antichrist. Also, would there not be other distinct "prophetic" signs that the coming is near?  For example, Jerusalem must be largely populated with Jews who have restored the daily sacrifice, for the temple will be in existence during this period (Mat. 24:15; 2 Thess. 2:4).   

According to Daniel 9:27 the treaty will be broken in the midst of the final week. The prince spoken of in the passage will in the midst of these seven years cause the sacrifice to cease and precipitate upon God’s people a time of tribulation that will last till the full end of the week (Dan. 7:21-27; Rev. 12:6-14; 13:5-7; . At the end of this tribulation there will be ushered in a time of great and unparalleled blessing (Dan. 9:24).  However, before the blessing, there will come the period of time that Scripture calls the Great Tribulation, and it will last three and a half years.  Keeping the basic question in focus, does Scripture tells us anywhere that the Lord Jesus Christ will return for his people anytime before this time of Tribulation? 




The Great Tribulation

As just stated the length of the tribulation is revealed to be "a time, and times, and half a time," "a thousand two hundred and threescore days," "forty and two months" or in plain English, three and a half years (Rev. 12:6,14; 13:5; Dan. 12:1). It is mainly characterized by persecution against the saints of God and is primarily motivated by the Devil's wrath (Rev. 12:12). It is the same period as the latter half of Daniel's 70th week during which the antichrist, supernaturally empowered by Satan, will make war with God’s saints (Rev. 13:4-7; Dan. 7:21,22,25-27).    

With reference to the great temple of Herod, the Lord said: "There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." (Matthew 24:2). This prediction caused the disciples to ask a twofold question: "Tell us when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Thy coming and of the end of the age?" The Lord begins to answer them by stating: (1) There would be general time-consuming signs during the whole age before his return, and (2) There would be special significant signs toward the consummation (sunteleia) of the age. It is in this context that we read: "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation SPOKEN OF BY DANIEL THE PROPHET, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)...FOR THEN shall be GREAT TRIBULATION" (vss. 15, 21). According to Daniel 12:11 this "abomination of desolation" is set up when the sacrifice in the temple is taken away. Whether this mysterious expression refers to a person, or an image present in the temple, it matters little for our present purpose. The fact of its appearance marks the crucial point at which the Great Tribulation will begin.

To continue our search for the chronological sequence, Matthew 24:29 tells the reader in no uncertain terms what it is that will follow the tribulation: "Immediately AFTER THE TRIBULATION of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light...."

The Heavenly Signs

Now with a little effort, comparing Scripture with Scripture, it can be seen that these signs follow the Tribulation but precede the actual coming of the Lord.  The prophet Joel revealed this same sequence: "And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, BEFORE the great and the terrible day of the Lord come." (Joel 2:30-31). Turning to the book of the Revelation, we discover the exact same order. The seals described in chapter 6 contain general signs that lead up to the time of the Tribulation. Under seal five we have the souls of them that were slain because of the Word of God and because of the testimony which they held.  To such were given "white robes." One of the 24 elders in speaking of those who are arrayed in white robes asks the question, "Who are these and whence came they?" When John is unable to answer, he replies, "These are they which came OUT OF THE GREAT TRIBULATION, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Rev. 7:13,14). The sixth seal is opened and we find the heavenly signs that are a warning that the day of the wrath of the Lamb is come. This brings us to the final step in the order of these prophetic events, namely the coming of Christ.    

The Day of the Lord

This point needs to be dealt with more thoroughly, for as was noted earlier, many pretribulationists make the Day of the Lord to be identical with the Tribulation.  Why they should do this is rather obvious. If the day of the Lord and the tribulation can be viewed as contemporaneous happenings then the pretrib position begins to have a case. For example, the day of the Lord is frequently associated with the pouring out of divine wrath, and since Holy Scripture plainly declares that the Lord Jesus has "delivered us from the wrath to come" (Romans 5:9; 1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9), the logic would suggest  that Christians cannot be present during the Tribulation.  However, the logic is valid only if the tribulation period and the day of the Lord are one and the same. That such cannot be is rather obvious on just two counts. First of all, those who suffer during the Tribulation are the saints of God.  Does God pour out His wrath upon those who are faithful to His Word, and to the testimony of the Lord Jesus (Dan. 7:21,22; Acts 14:22; 2 Thess. 1:3-10; Rev. 1:9; 6:9; 12:17)?     Then, in the first canonical reference to the day of the Lord, we are told that "the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day." (Isaiah 2:10-21). Hardly consistent with what we know to be the truth during the tribulation period. (Interestingly, it was a pretrib brother who first called my attention to this clear biblical sequence. I remember my original reaction was quite negative for my Bible college teachers had taught dif-ferently. I would recommend for careful consideration the booklet, The Great Conflict, by Vernon Anderson).   

Also, we have seen that the great day of wrath followed the heavenly signs which in turn followed the Tribulation.  The hesitancy to accept such a  sequence on the part of many pretribulationists is quite revealing. They know that if the day of the Lord synchronises with the premillennial advent of Christ, then there would be a number of serious exegetical problems (e.g. 1 Thess. 5:2-4; 2 Thess. 2:1-12; 2 Peter 3:10; Rev. 3:3; 16:15). There is also the fact previously mentioned that Elijah is to return before the day of the Lord (Mal. 4:5).  If the day of the Lord includes the Tribulation, then Elijah would be scheduled to appear before the Tribulation.  This would be a hard pill to swallow for those dispensationalists who claim that the church has nothing to do with prophecy.  The chronological order is clear: Tribulation, Cataclysmic heavenly signs, and then, The day of the Lord.      

The Old Testament is clear that the day of the Lord is not tribulation for the saints, but rather it is judgment for the unsaved (cf. Isaiah 2:11-19; 13:6-11; 26:20,21; Zeph. 1:14: 2:3). The New Testament is equally clear that at this time the godly shall be delivered, and the ungodly destroyed, (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:2-9; 2 Thess. 1:4-10). It is also the time of the blowing of the last trumpet, the time of the resurrection of the saints, and the giving out of rewards. It is the time when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever, (Isaiah 26:19-21; Joel 1:15; 2:1,2; Rev. 11:15-18). It is the time when the dead saints of God are raised and the living saints are caught up with them to meet the Lord in the air.  In other words, it is the time when the Son of Man shall break through the heavens in great power with all his mighty angels bringing retribution and death to them that have not obeyed the gospel, and rest and glory to those who have, (Matt. 13:39-43; 24:30,31; 25:31-46; 2 Thess. 1:4-2:12).   

The prophetical sequence contained in Daniel's 70th week is thus very clear and there is no mention anywhere that there will be a coming of Christ before it.  Matthew 24 fits perfectly with these main events right up till the advent of the Son of Man.  As the Lord said: "WHEN ye shall see the Abomination of Desolation...." (vs. 15) "THEN shall be great Tribula-tion...." (vs. 21) "IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE TRIBULATION of those days shall the sun be darkened...." (vs. 29) "And THEN shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven" (vs. 30).   

The chronological sequence is very clear.  The Word of God testifies that the Great Tribulation shall be followed by certain cataclysmic phenomena in the heavenly bodies, and then that great and terrible day of the Lord shall come, (cf. Joel 2:30,31; Zeph. 1:14-18; Zech. 14:4-7; Mat. 24: 29-31; Acts 2:19,20; Rev. 6:12-17).   

With this brief background the reader should be better equipped to pursue the following pages.  The purpose will be to consider every relevant verse in the light of its context and paying particular attention to the surrounding context, and noting any statements concerning the chronological setting.  As was said previously, this would mean that the objective would be to look at the respective verses and contexts with a view to noting any chronological indicators in the light of the foregoing sequence of prophetical events.   





A Concordant Approach

Where to begin is the first question? The task itself is not difficult, but the need is for an approach that will take the reader methodically through every pertinent passage. Probably, the simplest and most thorough method will be by following each of the references in their canonical order, as for example would be presented in any reliable concordance. In order to facilitate such a task, I have chosen to consider these references under the headings of the four principal Greek words used to describe the coming of Christ.  The first word is the verb, phaneroo, and then the three nouns, "parousia," "epi-phaneia," and "apokalupsis." There is no need to be put off by the use of Greek words.  They are used simply to accommodate a systematic approach, and not to prove or disprove anything.   

We are well aware of certain theories that have been built around these words in order to distinguish between two future comings, but, speaking generally, we reject them. We do not believe that any one of them are res-pectively limited to any particular group of believers and therefore expres-sive of some distinctive hope.    

The first word is "phaneroo."  The word means, to make manifest, to show forth, to appear, and the passages with which we are concerned are: Colossians 3:4; 1 Peter 5:4; 1 John 2:28; 3:2.   

Phaneroo

1.Colossians 3:4.   

"When Christ who is our life shall appear (phaneroo), then shall ye also appear (phaneroo) with him in glory."   

It might be said that there is nothing in the verse itself, nor in the immediate context to supply any explicit pre or posttrib doctrinal support.  If, however, we accept the age-old practice of comparing Scripture with Scripture, it should not be too difficult to determine the time of our appearance with Him in glory.   

In Romans 8:18 Paul writes: "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."  The context (vss. 18-23) makes it clear that the revealing of the glory synchronizes with the deliverance of creation from the bondage of corruption. It is also the time of the redemption of the body. All we need ask then, is when does nature enjoy this tremendous regenerating experience? "And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration (palingenesia, the recreation of the social order, the renewal of the earth) when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Mat. 19:28)   

The regeneration of creation thus occurs at the time of the beginning of the kingdom. With this event there is the prominent association of glory, (Matt. 13:43; 24:30; 25:31; Lk. 23: 9:26; 1 Thess. 2:12; 2 Thess. 1:7-10).    The resurrection of the saints, the regeneration of creation, and the realization of the kingdom are all events which follow the Tribulation (Matt. 24:29,30; Rom. 8:18-23; 1 Cor. 15: 50,54; Rev. 11:15-18).   

2. 1 Peter 5:4.

"And when the chief Shepherd shall appear (1st. aor. pass. part. i.e. "Having been manifested"), ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." "And when the chief Shepherd shall be manifested, ye shall receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away." (R.V.)

Before looking for the time element let mention that this verse bears a close affinity to Colossians 3:4. It can be seen in the larger context of 1 Peter 5:4 some facts that would strongly suggest that this manifestation synchronizes again with what is known as the premillennial coming of Christ (cf. 5:1; 4: 13; 1:13). Peter, let it be remembered, was writing to the sojourners of the dispersion (cf. 1:1; 2: 11,12). The context of this epistle establishes beyond question the fact that this is the premillennial appearing of Christ (cf. 1: 5-7,13; 4:7,12,13). It is at this time that the saints will be rewarded (Matt. 16:27; Luke 14:14; Rev. 11:18).   

2. 1 John 2:28.   

"And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear (phaneroo) , we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming."   

Perhaps it would be advisable to add the one remaining reference containing "phaneroo," for it is clearly related to what is said in this verse.

    1 John 3:2.

"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear (phaneroo) what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear (phaneroo) we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."

From the wording and context it is difficult to disassociate these two refe-rences from the coming which will inaugurate the millennial kingdom (cf. also Luke 9:26). The context is especially revealing. Notice what John says in Chapter 2:18. “Little children, it is the last hour: and as ye heard that antichrist cometh, even now have there arisen many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last hour" (1 Jn. 2:18, R.V.)

Now of which last hour is John speaking? Surely, the very mention of the antichrist is sufficient to determine the answer. The believers knew that "antichrist" was to come, and the presence of "many antichrists" forces John to conclude that it is the last hour. All the Church Fathers who touch on this subject were of this opinion, as were the intertestamental pseudopigraphical writings (See,  Brant Pitre, Jesus, the Tribulation and the End of the Exile).  More importantly, if a comparison is made with 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, it will be seen that the day of the Lord could not come until "the apostasy" and "the revelation of the man of sin" takes place. John observed the apostasy around him and concluded that he was in the last hour and therefore Antichrist would soon be revealed. This is a noteworthy context, for if it is said that all the believers after Paul were looking for a pre-tribulational coming, how do we account for the fact that John, some forty years after Paul, wrote to the believers of their future transfiguration after the advent of the antichrist? (Cf. also Rev. 1:7 with Zech. 12:10; 14:4,9).   

Summary of Phaneroo

Can we really make Colossians 3:4 a different appearing from the other three references?  I personally, feel constrained to submit that they are all one and the same. There is certainly no support for any secret-pretribulation-coming theory.

Parousia
.
This word is found 24 times in the N.T.; 22 times it is translated "coming" and 2 times "presence." Deissmann, in his Light From the Ancient East, declares that this word, in its technical usage, is "an expression for the arrival or the visit of a King or an Emperor."  The passages which relate to the question at hand are: Matthew 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:1,8; James 5:1,8; 2 Peter 1: 16; 3:4; 1 John 2:28.

1. Matthew 24:3-39.   

"And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" (vs. 3)   

Throughout the Olivet discourse, the word is used four times (vss. 3, 27, 37, 39). The time element is clearly stated in verses 29-31: “immediately after the tribulation...."  The order, as was previously mentioned, is as follows: (1) Tribulation; (2) Signs; (3) Parousia, (cf. also Rev. 6:12-17; Joel 2:30,31). This parousia is obviously that which coincides with the Day of the Lord; at which time Christ will come back in power and glory to punish the wicked and reward the righteous (Mat. 25:34, 46). The first resurrection is also a part of this tremendous event. (Cf. Isaiah 26:19-21; 2 Thess. 1:5-10; Jude 14,15; Rev. 11:18; 19:11- 16; 20:4-6). This coming will inaugurate the Messianic Kingdom during which time Christ will reign with a rod of iron (Matthew 25:31; Luke 1:32,33; Rev. 12:5; 19:15; 20:4-6).

It is patently impossible to find a pretribulation coming in Matthew 24.  The parousia is clearly stated to be: "Immediately after the tribulation . . . (signs) . . . THEN (tote, at that time) . . . they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." (Matt. 24:29,30).

There is nothing at all in this context, or in any other thus far considered, to sustain the doctrine of two separate comings, although, it can be seen that there are two aspects to the one coming:  E.G. (1) Its relation to the saved; and (2) Its relation to the unsaved.

2. 1 Corinthians 15:23.

"But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming."

The resurrection connected with this    parousia is enlarged upon in verses 51-54. We should give particular attention to the "when" and the "then" of verse 54, and compare the context of Isaiah 25:8, 9.     

Then there is the next division: ‘afterward they that are Christ's at his coming' i.e., the "first" resurrection before the millennium." (See, E. W. Bullinger, Ten Sermons on the Second Advent, p. 141).

There is no textual reason to strain the parousia of verse 23 into something different than that of Matthew 24.   

3. 1 Thessalonians 2:19.   

"For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?"   

This verse in itself contains little or no explicit chronological clues as to the time of the parousia mentioned.  But then, why should it, since there was only the one future coming of Christ?  It perhaps will be wise to first consider the other verses in this epistle (reputed to be Paul's first) which contain the word parousia before attempting any summarization.   

Paul had no need to distinguish between two future comings for he believed in only one.  Such appears clearly to be the case, and to assert otherwise not only lacks evidence, but imposes an impossible situation upon the Chris-tians in New Testament times. Which coming were the twelve apostles expecting?  Did they ever meet together and ponder how come Paul and the Gentile believers had a different hope and that only they would be expected to go through the Tribulation before the day of the Lord? 

4. 1 Thessalonians 3:13.   

"To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints."   

If the reader has looked at all the references thus far listed, then the fact that this verse mentions the parousia of the Lord with His holy ones will immediately call to mind such passages as Matthew 25:31; Mark 8: 38; and Jude 14.   

This is one of those verses which pretribulationists appear to have no united voice.  Some say it is the coming before the Tribulation, whereas others look on it as being after the Tribulation. It is upon the phraseology of this verse that the distinction of Christ coming for his saints and his coming with his saints has been built. Hence the verse is generally understood by pretribulationists to signify the premillennial coming "with all his saints," in contrast to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 which is reputed to be the pretrib coming "for his saints." This distinction has received popular patronage, but upon careful examination it is found to be a specious construction based once again upon inattentiveness to the exact wording of Scripture. Contrary to what certain pretribulationist might think, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 also presents Christ coming "with" His saints:   

"For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring WITH HIM" (vs. 14).

The idea that this verse refers to the spirits of the departed dead which are enroute with Christ to enter the resurrection body is completely foreign to the wording and to the context.  It clearly states, "them also which sleep," not their spirits, "will God bring with Him."  Notice particularly how verse 15 begins, "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, THAT..." Paul is now about to explain how it is that the dead can be brought back with Christ at His parousia. They are to be first taken up along with the living to meet the Lord in the air, then God will bring them back with Christ to judge and to reign over the whole cosmos.  Why they should be caught up to meet the descending Lord could very well be related to the fact that when he does return, he will do so in flaming fire “taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, for they “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power. (2 Thess. 1:8, 9).

5. 1 Thessalonians 4:15.

"For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep."

Let me remind the reader that this passage and context are apparently the stronghold of the pretrib-coming theory. It should be noted however that nothing is said at all concerning the time of the Tribulation. Why should the parousia of the Lord in this verse be different from 1 Corinthians 15:23 or Matthew 24?  If the context be considered without preconceptions then it can be seen that the subject matter concerns principally the relationship of the dead saints to the living at the parousia.

A. T. Robertson tells us that the word "shout" (vs. 16) is a word meaning to order, to command, i.e. a military command.  Conybeare translates this as a shout of war, i.e. the shout used in battle. This fits perfectly into the description of the parousia that will introduce the Millennial Kingdom, (Rev. 19:11-21).   

The descent from heaven, the shout, the archangel's voice, the trumpet of God, the resurrection, are all things that happen in that interval while the stage is set for the inauguration of the 1,000 year reign. What good reason is there for disassociating this parousia from the same moment of time in which the other references find their fulfillment?  Surely, other than the theory itself of two separate comings, the sequence in such passages as Isaiah 26:20, 21, John 14:3, and Matthew 25:6, can be understood to fit the sequence in the Thessalonian passages.     

Let me then ask once again, why are believers caught up "to meet" the Lord in the air?  Surely the reason for the gathering unto the Lord is to escape the wrath that shall be poured out upon the earth. We have seen that there is the trump of God which 1 Corinthians designates as the last trump. The last of the seven trumpets of the Revelation announces that the time of wrath has come (cf. carefully Rev. 11:15-19 with 15:5-16:1). What happens after the meeting in the air? Surely one of the parties must accompany the other in a certain direction? They can hardly remain indefinitely in midair! Which direction will they go? This question is answered by comparing the other two occurrences of this phrase. Matthew 25:6-13 and Acts 28:15,16 show that the ones who do the meeting are the ones who then change direction.  At his coming the believers are caught up to meet the Lord Jesus, and then, at least so it would appear, after a short interval of time, the whole glorious company make their descent together.   

If it needs a catching away to differentiate the pretrib coming from the Lord’s coming to reign, then it can logically be asserted that this is the only passage in the Bible that speaks of such a thing. There will definitely be a reunion preceding Christ's return to earth. This is the thought of 1 Thessa-lonians 4, (cf. also 1 Thess. 5:10). If this be considered unthinkable then those so inclined might want to consider Matthew 25:1-13. (The five wise virgins who had oil in their lamps went out to meet the bridegroom on his way to the marriage and entered into the marriage with him).

6. 1 Thessalonians 5:23.   

“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole   spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."   

In 3:13 Paul was concerned that the hearts of the saints be unblameable at the parousia, and now, he uses words that apparently mean "the whole man."  Surely, this change in detail cannot be construed in such a way that two different parousias are involved.     Incidentally, the word parousia is in the singular and never in the plural.

There is a need perhaps to remind the reader that the original manuscripts contained no verse or chapter divisions. From the theme touched on in chapter four it seems that there is a slight change in the subject matter as the reader moves into what Archbishop Langton has made chapter five. (He it was who in 1207 A.D. made the chapter divisions that exist in the A.V.). The slight change does not mean that chapter five is going to be dealing with an entirely different parousia.  It is still the one parousia, but now in chapter five, we have it in relation to the living.   

A. 4:13 But ….(peri-concerning) dead   
B. 5:1 But …. (peri-concerning) living   

In 5:2 there is a phrase with which we are already familiar, i.e. "the day of the Lord." Does this verse allow the thought that the day of the Lord is synonymous with the Tribulation?  Does the Tribulation come as a thief in the night?  The apostle Peter in dealing with the scoffers who ask "where is the promise of His coming (parousia)?" pointed out that the Lord is not slack concerning his promise (the promise of his coming). He stated very categorically: "But the day of the Lord WILL COME as a thief in the night . . . ." (cf. 2 Peter 3:4, 9, 10). Here there is clear evidence that the day of the Lord is associated with His parousia, and surely it is obvious that "the promise of his coming" does not refer to the Tribulation, (cf. also Rev. 3:3; 16:15; Mat. 24:42-44).   

A sharp distinction is usually made between the coming associated with the day of the Lord and the coming reputed to precede the Great Tribulation. The former, it is often asserted, could never be imminent for it must be preceded by definite time consuming events, whereas the latter has no such limitations.  Even a casual reader of the text should be able to see that such a differentiation is fraught with inconsistencies.  For example, the strongest words of imminency are to be found in the Synoptic Gospels where most pretribulationists concede have reference to the coming after the tribulation (cf. Matt. 24:44; 25:1-13; Luke 12:36-40).   

In the context of 1 Thessalonians 5, the impendingness of the day of the Lord is evident. Similar language can be found in Matthew 24 and 25. Certainly, the coming of Christ could legitimately be considered imminent during the lives of the Apostles (cf. Matt. 24:34; Lk. 12:40; Acts 2:16-21; 3:19-21).  Such is the nature of biblical prophecy.  It usually has a tendency to foreshorten the prophetic horizon.  Scholars have called this the apoteles-matic nature of prophecy.   

These verses would be difficult to understand if the coming of Christ were not an impending event. The kingdom was proclaimed by John the Baptist and by the Lord Jesus Christ as being at hand, and surely Peter was speaking the truth in Acts 3:19-21. Is the imminency of Christ's parousia then to be denied because certain signs precede it?  The Apostle John did not think so when he wrote 1 John 2:18, 28.  It is wiser to leave this problem for an appendix note, but at this point we would just summarize the facts by saying that the Gospels, the Acts, and the Pauline Epistles convey the teaching that the second coming of Christ might conceivably have occurred during the lifetime of the Apostles.  In other words, it remained on the horizon of fulfillment..   

Notice the pronouns "they" and "ye" (1 Thess. 5:1-11). It is only to un-believers that this day comes as a thief in the night. The unbelievers (the "they") are not expecting it, and to watch and be sober is the exhortation given to the believers. For those who make the day of the Lord conter-minous with the Tribulation, we would ask again, is the tribulation to come as a thief in the night?  No, it is quite obvious that it refers to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Rev. 16:15). What exactly does this figure mean? Sir Robert Anderson offers a good illustration of this situation:"When a man opens his door with a latch key at midnight and walks into his house, his wife does not scream with surprise and fright.  She expects him, and his coming is the most natural thing possible. But if a woman neither expects her husband, nor wants him, she would probably greet him as if he was a burglar. This is precisely what is intended in this figure of "a thief in the night" (cf. Lk. 12:39; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 16:15).   

We must be careful with our exegesis of chapter five. This is the chapter in which we have practical exhortation for the believer and to dismiss it as having no relation to what has preceded is a serious mistake. The very injunction to watch (5:6) shows the connection with the coming as a thief. The unbelievers are unprepared but the believers are to be prepared; they are to be spiritually awake. Williams translates this passage: "So let us stop sleeping as others do, but let us stay awake and keep sober." How strange this exhortation would be if it were given in view of something which supposedly happens at least seven years after the believers are caught up to heaven.  How can pretribulationists continue to sever chapter 5 from chapter 4 as though it had no connection? Clearly, the chapter contains practical exhortations for believers in view of the parousia of Christ.

In summing up 1 Thessalonians 5, we can say that there is no stated reason to divorce the parousia from the parousia that is mentioned in the preceding chapters of this Epistle.   

7. 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8.   

"Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him . . . . And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming."   

The premillennial coming of Christ is obviously referred to in the preceding chapter (1:7-10), but without the use of the word parousia.  Does this mean that 2:1 is referring to a different coming from chapter 1:7-10. Why? Let us be sure that we are not guilty of allowing a prearranged system to dictate interpretation.    Deductive reasoning can produce serious problems.

From 2:1-3 it seems obvious that the Thessalonian saints expected to be on earth just prior to the time of the Day of the Lord. Paul certainly does nothing to suggest anything different. However, in spite of the fact that these saints expected to be living at the parousia, Paul is careful to list certain events that would precede its fulfillment: (1) the apostasy; and (2) the revelation of the man of sin (vs. 3).  The passage is so clear that my mind puzzles over the reluctance of many pretrib students to allow the simple straightforward meaning to register in their minds.    

It is amazing to what lengths some commentators will go to overcome a Scripture that clearly contradicts their theory.  It has been suggested that the Greek word "apostasia" should be understood to signify a spatial “departure, rather than a “falling away.” In other words, it is argued that this word teaches a departure, that is, a movement away from earth to heaven of believers before the day of the Lord.  Interestingly, if the case were proven, it would not disturb the doctrine of a post-Trib coming.  But the idea that he apostasia could mean being caught up to meet Christ in the air is a travesty of sane interpretation.    

Are we to accept such an interpretation, or are we to translate "apostasia" by the English word "apostasy?" Let it be noted that only a few commentators, and of course they are or pretrib persuasion, hold to this novel idea of spatial departure. The overwhelming number of Biblical scholars, including some who remain in the pretrib school, understand apostasia to mean what it self-evidently means, namely, “a departure from the faith." Certainly the context of 2 Thessalonians has much to say about this type of departure (1:8; 2:2-4, 10-12). Paul warns Timothy that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith...." (1 Tim. 4:1). Surely it is clear also that if "apostasia" really meant the departure of the Church to heaven, then there would have been no need to mention the man of sin at all. Since the coming of the antichrist is a matter for real concern, the preceding "falling away" cannot be a preTrib coming.

Although the Lord's return was expected, and even loomed on the horizon in these Thessalonian epistles, it was never stated to be an any-moment un-heralded event.  The sense of expectancy can also be seen by looking at other references in Paul's Epistles and also from certain passages in the book of Acts (cf. Acts 1:6; 2:17; 3:19-21; 7:56; Rom. 13:11, 12; 1 Cor. 15:51, 58; 16:22; 2 Cor. 4:14; 1 Thess. 4:13-17). If we allow ourselves to stand back and take in the chronological sequence of those early apostolic days, we can better understand the feelings of those then alive. Those days were filled with expectancy and suspense.

Before we pass on to the next reference, perhaps it might help the reader if we set forth a structural outline of the Thessalonian epistles with respect to the parousia of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I Thessalonians   

A. 2:19 In the Lord's presence at His parousia.   
  B. 3:13 Stablished blameless in holiness,   
             at the parousia of our Lord Jesus Christ.   
A. 4:15-17 In the Lord's presence at His parousia.   
  B. 5:23 Preserved blameless, sanctified wholly,
       at the parousia of our Lord Jesus Christ.   

II Thessalonians   

A. 2:1 Deliverance at His parousia (cf. 1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9).   
  B. 2:8 Destruction at His parousia (cf. 2 Thess. 1:5-10).   

The above structure was not copied from another writer. It was suggested simply by considering the text itself.   

8. James 5:7, 8.   

"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh."   

The testimony of these verses in James is not unlike that which has already been examined. Again we find that the parousia of the Lord is imminent. From the address (1:1) it would seem strained to make these verses fit into any general pretribulational scheme. The scene in James 5:7-9 is one of the judge standing at the door (cf. Rev. 3:20), and his entrance is impending.   

9. 2 Peter 1:16.   

"For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of his majesty."   

The transfiguration was apparently an adumbration of the power and majesty that is yet to be.   

10. 2 Peter 3:4.   

"And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation."

We felt that it would be wise to direct attention to this verse in connection with 1:16. Chapter 3:10 helps to establish the chronological setting.   

11. 1 John 2:28.   

"And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming."   

This verse was touched upon while dealing with the word "phaneroo." As was pointed out, verse 18 fixes the time.  It is quite obvious that this parousia would be after the tribulation. It is difficult to deny that 1 John contains events that immediately precede the parousia of Christ and that they could be identified with the Tribulation (cf. 2:18,28; 3:2; 4:3).   

Summary of Parousia

What would make any interpreter teach that 1 Corinthians 15:23; and 1 Thessalonians 4:15, refer to a different parousia from the other references considered?  If it were not for some prearranged prophetic scheme, we are certain that simple straightforward exegesis of these two passages would find no serious hindrance in understanding them to be speaking of the same parousia of Christ to which the other passages have reference.   

It is my conviction, from what has been covered thus far, that there is to be only one future coming (parousia) of Christ. It is to have two aspects: (1) In its relationship to the saved; and (2) In its relationship to the unsaved. The parousia of Christ will mean unending joy to the saints, for He will gather them to Himself never to depart; but to those who are impenitent, it will mean interminable sorrow, for He will decree everlasting banishment from His glorious presence.   

Epiphaneia   

The word means: appearance, manifestation, or more literally, the shining upon. The verses which use the word in relation to the coming of Christ are: 2 Thessalonians 2:8; 1 Timothy 6:14; (2 Timothy 1:10); 4:1,8; Titus 2:13.   

1. 2 Thessalonians 2:8 (cf. #7 under Parousia)   

This verse translates "epiphaneia" by the word "brightness." At the parousia of the Lord Jesus, the lawless one shall be rendered powerless by the very manifestation of Christ's triumphant arrival. This appearance of the Lord synchronizes with the parousia and from verses 2 and 3 it is fulfilled in the Day of the Lord.   

2. 1 Timothy 6:14.

"That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . ."

In this, his first Epistle to Timothy, Paul's instruction was to keep "the commandment . . . . until the appearing (epiphaneia) of the Lord Jesus Christ." Now it will have to be argued that this "epiphaneia" is different from 2 Thessalonians 2:8 if the Church is to be caught up before the Tribulation.

3. 2 Timothy 4:1.

"I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom . . . ."

The epiphaneia in this passage is clearly associated with Christ's Kingdom and with the judging of the living and the dead. The coming of Christ's (Messiah's) reign synchronizes with the resurrection of the dead, and it is also the day of his epiphaneia (cf. Rev. 11:15-18).

4. 2 Timothy 4:8.

"Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."

There is no acceptable way we can exegetically disassociate this appearing (epiphaneia) from the time element of verse one.  Paul looked forward to the day when the Righteous Judge was going to reward him (Cf. also Luke 14:14). It would be quite inconsistent to argue that verse one teaches a dif-ferent epiphaneia than verse eight.

5. Titus 2:13.

"Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ . . . ."

J. N. Darby, perhaps more than any other man, was responsible for popu-larizing the pretribulational coming doctrine.  I would like to quote his ren-dering of this verse: "Awaiting the blessed hope and appearing (epiphaneia) of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ."

Surely, it is quite obvious that the blessed hope is not a separate event from the appearing (the epiphaneia). We have compared every translation we could lay our hands on and the conclusion is the same.  As Conybeare so accurately expressed it: "Looking for that blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ."   

With what we know of the Hebrew language and of the O.T. prophets, it is not hard to understand how the blessed hope involves the coming of Jehovah (the Saviour God). This of course, bears some relation to the Day of Jehovah, (cf. Isa. 25:9; 40:3, 10; Rev. 1:4, 8; 4: 8; 11:17,18; 15:3, 4).   

There is little definite indication of the time element in the context of Titus 2:13, but the language of the verse, compared with other Scriptures, would seem to refer to the appearing in power and glory which will inaugurate the Millennial reign of Christ (the Messiah). The use of the definite article sug-gests the one well-known "epiphaneia" which synchronizes with the pre-millennial advent.   

Again I must confess my amazement at the power of man-made tradition. The average pretribulationist who reads this verse sees in the words "that blessed hope" the thought of deliverance from the Tribulation.  In fact, we have been told a number of times that if the believer must enter the Tribulation then there is no such thing as a blessed hope. All we ask is that close attention be given to the exact wording. The blessed hope is the epiphany, the outshining of the glory of our great Saviour-God, Jesus Christ. To those who would argue that this verse (the "looking for") would only make sense in view of an any-moment pretrib idea, I would suggest, by way of comparison, that attitude of expectancy found in Luke 2:25, and 23:51. Moreover, how much more blessed the hope will be to those who will be living through the Great Tribulation   

Summary of Epiphaneia

As there were only five references covered under the word "epiphaneia," it makes the summary easier.   

The "epiphaneia" of Christ:   

1. Brings the man of sin to destruction.   
2. Closes the service of Christians in this present economy.   
3. Synchronises with the judgment of the dead and the living.   
4. Is to be the object of the believer’s affection.   
5. Is set forth as "the blessed hope."   

Apokalupsis   

The meaning of the word "apokalupsis" can best be defined as an unveiling, or in such synonyms as disclosure, revelation, and manifestation. The verses to be considered are: 1 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:7,13 (Romans 8:19; 1 Peter 4:13).   

1. 1 Corinthians 1:7.   

"So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . ."   

As can be clearly seen, these saints were waiting for the apokalupsis of our Lord Jesus Christ.  If we assert that this event will coincide with the day of the Lord (cf. Rev. 1:1,10), then it must be concluded that the Corinthian saints could never have expected a coming before the tribulation. Verse 8 uses the term "the end" and also connects it with the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and his day. Such fits perfectly into the descriptions of what happens when Jehovah returns to be King over all the earth (Isa. 2:10-17; Zech. 14:1- 9).   

In Titus 2:13 it was a looking for the epiphaneia of the glory, which, accor-ding to 2 Thessalonians 2:8, synchronises with the day of the Lord.    

2. 2 Thessalonians 1:7.   

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

Remembering the main objective of these notes, the time element can be ascertained by reading verses 4-12.  Chapter 2:1-12 takes the subject even further.  Paul is dealing in the context with tribulation and suffering. The record clearly suggests that the Thessalonian saints could expect no relief until the revelation (apokalupsis) of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven. At that time there would be deliverance for the believers and destruction for the disbelievers. The wording of the next verse reveals clearly that the saints enter into their rest at the same time that Christ comes to judge the un-believers. The "tribulation" and the "rest" are objects of the verb "recom-pense," and the time of this recompensing is clear; "when," or more literally, "at the time of the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God."   

3. 1 Peter 1:7, 13.   

"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.  Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.   

It is apparent that this context bears remarkable similarity to that which was noted in the previous reference. There can be little doubt that Peter is writing to saints who were enduring manifold trials and that there was no reason to expect any relief until the revelation of Christ.   

At the beginning of this consideration of the word apokalupsis there were quoted two references in parenthesis. One was 1 Peter 4:13 and should be considered with 1 Peter 1:7,13 for it is still dealing with the same subject.   

The other reference was Romans 8:18, 19. (I dealt somewhat with this reference under phaneroo in connection with Col. 3:4). Here the word apokalupsis is used in connection with the sons of God.  If verse 18 is compared with 1 Peter 1:7,13; 4:13, it must be conceded that there is marked similarity.  The sons of God will one day be manifested in their true character. From what the context reveals, that day synchronizes with the regeneration of creation (cf. Matthew 19:28).   

Summary of Apokalupsis

As with the other three words, phaneroo, parousia, and epiphaneia, so the word apokalupsis focuses its fulfillment on that future climatic point of biblical prophecy, namely, the second coming of Christ (1 Peter 1:10,11).   

The "apokalupsis" of Christ:   

1. Is what the Corinthian saints were anticipating.   
2. Is the time when the Thessalonian saints can expect rest.   
3. Is the moment when those to whom Peter writes can expect to rejoice with exceeding joy.   

Conclusion

Maybe it is needless to mention this again, but in case it has been over-looked, I must point out that the teaching that categorizes these four Greek words into separate advents in relation to different groups of believers is quite clearly erroneous and should be rejected. These words are simply descriptive of that one single glorious advent which will bring the kingdoms of this world under the dominion of our Lord. It needs a lot of armchair gymnastics to fit these words into four, or even two different advents.   

The consideration of the passages relevant to the declared purpose of this study is now complete. The reader is urged to test the conclusions. It is always a danger when students of the Word imagine that they have the corner on all of God's truth. May we be saved from such a disastrous deception. Certainly, these pages were not written in any proud dogmatic spirit. They contain conclusions attained after conscientious study, and they are offered for verification or rejection.   

I would conclude then that the Bible knows nothing of two future distinct and separate advents of Christ. The language of Scripture presents us with one future return of Christ. The passages that speak of the Great Tribulation contain nothing that would suggest a resurrection of dead saints together with a catching away of the living saints before it begins. In plain language, there is not one Scripture anywhere that asserts a pretrib coming. Arguing for a second coming before the second coming, or for a first resurrection before the first, or for a last trumpet before the last trumpet imposes a system of deductive thinking on the Word of God that flies into the face value meaning of words. 

Reactions from Friends

The first reaction, from some of my friends to my change of position was generally one of genuine concern.  I received some interesting letters in which I was repeatedly asked: "Why do you want to go through the great tribulation?" "Isn't it a much better hope to be caught away before it hap-pens?" "Why should Gentile Christians suffer such a time of persecution?" "Why do you want to take away the blessed hope and give people the hope of the great tribulation?"  I must confess that these questions were quite a surprise, for they came from those who professed a desire to emulate the  Bereans.  Such questions can hardly be settled by likes or dislikes; they are decided solely by recourse to the Word of God.   

I was saddened particularly by the action of those dear "friends" who felt that the issue was of such serious consequence that they must sever their fellowship with me.  But, in the spirit of the quotation used earlier, we felt obliged to say: "Amicus Plato, sed mais amica veritas  (Dear is Plato, but dearer still is Truth)."  The matter must be decided solely by that which is recorded in Holy Scripture.  Every believer must search the matter out for himself.  Let none be guilty of promising God's people deliverance from the Tribulation, when if anything, they should be warned to prepare to endure it.

With some, this whole issue remains a closed matter. I understand this attitude, for at one time I was of like mind.  However, where can we find the Christian who knows all that is contained in God's Word in relation to this subject? Let no believer imagine that he could ever know everything about everything that is revealed in the Word of God. My own experience has been that every time I open its precious pages, I make fresh discoveries of my own ignorance. As Joseph Parker well said: "When the last word has been said about the Bible it will no longer be the Word of God."

The Book

"Great God, with wonder and with praise, On all Thy works I look;
But still Thy wisdom, power and grace, Shine brightest in Thy Book.

Here are my choicest treasures hid, Here my best comfort lies;
Here my desires are satisfied, And here my hopes arise.

Then let me love my Bible more, And take fresh delight,
By day to read these wonders o'er, And meditate by night."

Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

We may perhaps be very sure that we possess the truth; but the surest way to displease the One who is Himself THE TRUTH is to be bitter and unloving toward those who may differ with us. The truth should never make us proud bigots. On the contrary, in proportion to the truth we possess, we should know equal humility and love. Truth is not something to be displayed in a showcase as one exhibits a trophy in which he might boast. Truth is not given merely to establish a basis of fellowship, or to test orthodoxy. Divine truth is something that is profoundly practical, and it can only achieve its intended goal when it is applied to the life. What then is the real practical application of the blessed hope? Perhaps we should ask again what is the blessed hope? Let the Word of God give us the clear answer. It is:"The appearing in glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ...." (Titus 2:13, Weymouth).  This statement is preceded by the words:   

"For the grace of God has displayed itself with healing power to all mankind, training us to renounce ungodliness and all the pleasures of this world, and to live sober, upright, and pious lives at the present time, in expectation of the fulfillment of our blessed hope." (Titus 2:11-12, Weymouth)

Might I close as I began, by pleading for forbearance and toleration, for as every Christian needs to realize, serious damage can be caused by recklessly brow-beating a sincere attempt to emulate the noble Bereans (Acts 17:11). The psychological make-up of the human mind is such that once it has committed itself to something, it is very reluctant to change. This tendency to resist change is much stronger among those who feel called to teach the Word of God. They are dealing with matters that concern the innermost depths of the soul and consequently involve the strongest convictions. I would conclude with a prayer: “

"0 God, I earnestly beseech Thee through the Lord Jesus Christ that Thou wouldest lead those who study these pages to discern between Holy Spirit inspired truth and man-made tradition, between divine precept and human              
  prejudice, between plain fact and pious fancy and that they may determine
by Thy grace to be faithful to Thy Word whatever be the cost."    Amen


AN EXERCISE FOR “BEREANS”

Will there be two future comings, of the Lord Jesus Christ?  The first, PRE and the second, POST “Tribulation?” Look up the following passages and indicate whether they refer to a Pre or a Posttrib Coming.

               PRE  or  POST                                                    
1.  James 5:7          __   __                27. 1 Corinthians 15:23    __   __
2.  James 5:8          __   __                28. 1 Corinthians 15:52    __   __
3.  Matthew 16:27      __   __                29. Luke 12:45                   __   __
4.  Matthew 16:28      __   __                30. Luke 17:30                   __   __
5.  Matthew 24:13      __   __        31. Luke 21:27                   __   __
6.  Matthew 24:27      __   __        32. Colossians 3:4      __   __
7.  Matthew 24:30      __   __        33. 1 Timothy 6:14      __   __
8.  Matthew 24:37      __   __        34. 2 Timothy 4:1      __   __
9.  Matthew 24:39      __   __        35. 2 Timothy 4:8      __   __
10. Matthew 24:42      __   __        36. Titus 2:13          __   __
11. Matthew 24:44      __   __        37. 1 Peter 1:7          __   __
12. Matthew 24:46      __   __        38. 1 Peter 1:13                   __   __
13. Matthew 25:13      __   __        39. 1 Peter 5:4          __   __
14. Matthew 25:31       __   __         40. 2 Peter 3:4          __   __
15. Matthew 26:64       __   __         41. 2 Peter 3:12                __   __
16. 1 Thessalonians 2:19   __   __          42. Mark 13:26                   __   __
17. 1 Thessalonians 3:13   __   __         43. Mark 13:36                   __   __
18. 1 Thessalonians 4:15   __   __         44. Mark 14:62                   __   __
19. 1 Thessalonians 5:23   __   __         45. Hebrews 9:28      __   __
20. 2 Thessalonians 1:7       __   __         46. Jude 1:14          __   __
21. 2 Thessalonians 1:10   __   __         47. John 14:3          __   __
22. 2 Thessalonians 2:1      __   __        48. 1 John 2:28                __   __
23. 2 Thessalonians 2:8      __   __        49. 1 John 3:2          __   __
24. 1 Corinthians 1:7      __   __        50. Revelation 1:7      __   __
25. 1 Corinthians 4:5      __   __        51. Revelation 22:20      __   __
26. 1 Corinthians 11:26      __   __

The above exercise was composed by Lee Beyer of Holland, Michigan.  It is positive and should be welcomed by all sincere believers who desire to be guided by the inspired authoritative Word of God.  May such be the case (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16, 17). There is probably no experiment more convincing than the above.  Let the reader be guided by the Bible alone.  Let him leave those man-made deductive premises where they originated and let Holy Scripture be the sole judge in the question whether there be will one or two future comings of Christ.  Amen.  

APPENDIX A

This appendix is added so that consideration might be given to what it means to be "waiting" and "watching" for the Second Coming of Christ. Also, what does the term “imminency” mean?  The following Scriptures are among many which might act as an introduction to the interested reader: Matthew 24:42, 50; 25:13; Romans 8:19-25; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Galatians 5:5; Philippians 3:20; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:6; Titus 2:12,13; Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 4:7; Revelation 16:15; etc.

Most pretrib believers seem to make the word “imminent” to be synony-mous with the word "any-moment."  Posttrib believers hold more to the idea that imminent signifies "close at hand in its incidence." Again we must appeal to the vocabulary of the Bible if we are to understand what is in-volved in the concept of imminency.  The actual English word “imminency” is not used in the King James translation of the Bible.  How did the first century believers view the coming of Christ?  There are two words that sum up their attitude. They are: "watch" and "wait."

1. WATCH   

In the original language there are three different Greek words translated by the English word "watch" used in connection with the Second Coming.   

(1) Nepho. This word does not really mean watch as we would use it in English. It contains more the thought of soberness of character. We have demonstrated how Peter did not write of a pretrib coming, but nevertheless the note of imminency is not wanting as he writes concerning the revelation of Jesus Christ:"But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore of sound mind and be sober unto prayer." (1 Peter 4:7, R.V.)

(2) Agrupneo. This word contains more the thought of "wakefulness" or "vigilance." Again, it does not mean watch in the sense of looking for the immediate manifestation of something.  It is used in Mark 13:33 and immin-ency can hardly be denied.

"Take ye heed, watch (be spiritually awake) and pray: for you know not when the time is."

(3) Gregoreo. Once more, this word does not mean watch in the sense of "to look for." It bears more the meaning "to be awake." (Matt. 26:38, 40, 41; Acts 20:31; 1 Thess. 5:10). To the church at Sardis John wrote: "Be watchful . . . . if therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come" (Rev. 3:2, 3).

The thought of imminency is self evidentetly apparent. It is in connection with Christ’s coming unexpectedly as a thief. Paul also used the words "nepho" and "gregoreo" in association with the day of the Lord coming as a thief (cf. 1 Thess. 5:3-8). This watching is required not as a pretribulationist would propose, but in view of the premillennial coming. It can be clearly understood that the word, “watch,” doesn't prove the "any-moment" idea.  It does however suggest imminency in the dictionary sense of the word (i. e. "impending threateningly, close at hand in its incidence, coming on shortly." Cf. A New English Dictionary, Oxford, Claredon).

What is of noteworthy interest for those who really grasp the significance of this aspect of the controversy, is the fact that the Gospels contain the strongest note of imminency (Matt. 24:42-44; Mark 13:33-37; Luke 12:22, 24, 37-40). The idea of imminency was found also in the preaching of the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Matthew 3:1,2; 4:17; 10:5-7; Mark 1:14, 15). Yet, as will be brought out in the next appendix, the early disciples knew nothing of "any-momentism." It is therefore inconsistent to use the word "watch" to substantiate the claim of the "any-momentists.”  The true meaning of the word is that of spiritual vigilance. Perhaps this quality is best expressed in  (Luke 2:25), or of Joseph of Arimathea who was "looking for the Kingdom of God" (Luke 23: 51). These men were living in constant expectation of all that God had promised them. It is a shame that pretribulationists will argue that "any-momentism" is necessary for incentive to faithfulness in service.  The heart that is truly devoted to Christ will constantly live in an attitude of expectancy regardless of the interval of time that intervenes.   

2. WAIT

There are nine words that the King James Version translates by the word "wait."  Only four are really related to the return of Christ.  As three of the words are compounds, each containing the word "dekomai," it would be wise to consider first the meaning of this word. Generally the word "dekomai" is translated by the English word "receive," but we also find "take," and "accept," words which are related in meaning. The gospel preacher will say, "take Christ as your personal Saviour, or accept Him, or receive Him." He means basically the same thing which ever word is used.. Looking at a few references the meaning soon becames apparent. In one passage Christ is speaking to those who must adopt the simplicity of a little child if they would enter into the Kingdom of God.  These verses, in the light of their contexts, urge those addressed to turn away from their am-bitious notions, self-seeking eagerness, and fondness for precedence and to imitate the simplicity of a child.   

Apparently, the word "dekomai" can mean more than a mere external accep-tance of an object. It can also imply a subjective reception.  When this happens, the acceptance is somehow manifested (1 Thess. 2:13).   

Our first compound word containing "dekomai" is:

(1) Prosdekomai. The preposition that is prefixed here has the root meaning of "near" or "facing."   

Mark 15:43 (cf. also Luke 23:51).   

"Joseph of Arimathea, an honourable counselor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus."   

Joseph was waiting for the Kingdom of God, which waiting lay behind his conduct.  The courage of Joseph was inspired by the fact that he faced, or looked forward to, the realization of that which by faith he anticipated.  The fact that he was willing to expose himself to the danger of death shows that this waiting for the kingdom of God was not an inactive mental state.

Luke 2:25.

"And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him."

In a similar vein, Simeon was looking to the realization of that which he had previously accepted and it was consequently showing itself in his life.

Luke 12:36.

"And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord, when he will return from the wedding: that when he cometh and knocketh, they. may open unto him immediately."

The key note is clearly that. of "readiness" (cf. vs. 40).

(2) Apekdekomai. Here there are two prepositions prefixed to dekomai:  "apo" and "ek."  The root meaning of "apo" is off, away from. The root meaning of "ek" is out of, from within. The preposition is there to add emphasis and intensity to the meaning of the main word.  The significance carries the idea of away from, yet coming from within.

Romans 8:19, 23, 25.

"For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.  And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body  But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it."   

Pondering the words, it is easy to see what we look away from, and how it comes from something we have received within. The context declares that we have received the "spirit of adoption."   It also states that we have the firstfruits of the spirit, and that we ourselves groan within ourselves (yet we look away by means of that which we have received) eagerly expecting the "adoption," the redemption of our body (see vss. 14-17, 23).   

The Christian and creation entertain a persistent expectation of the hope that will become a fact at the unveiling of the sons of God. The practical worth of all this can be seen in the reading of verse 18:

"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Moreover the word "apekdekomai" cannot be understood in mere passive terms. Notice the way it is used in 1 Corinthians 1:6,7:   

"Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ...."   

Here is something these believers had received and it caused them to look away to the day when that which was testimony would be open reality.

A similar emphasis comes out in Galatians 5:5. "For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith."

We should note that this verse does not reflect in any way upon the fact of our present justification. We were declared righteous the moment we received Christ as Saviour. However again there is the realization of that which God already reckons as true. It is this that we feel coming out from within our hearts. But as in all other references, there is always the fact that those who are waiting in the true meaning of the word will inevitably manifest it in their lives.  Consider in this context also verses 1, 13, 14.   

(3) Ekdekomai. This is the third word containing "dekomai"  Again the pre-position "ek" is present implying, out of, i.e. out from within.  It is also used of Abraham in Hebrews 11:10, "he looked for a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God." Was this waiting passive, inactive, without purpose (cf. vss. 8, 9)?  The answer is quite obviously, “no!”   

The reference which concerns the coming of Christ is found in James 5:7:

"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain."   

Can anyone really conclude that this waiting of the husbandman implies inactivity? Would anyone ever understand James to be conveying this meaning? The life of the farmer is often arduous and anxious, but surely never inactive. Yes, the waiting involves time, but the object that provokes the waiting necessitates activity.

Notice how it is related to their lives in verses 9, 10:   

"Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience."   

The fourth and final Greek word that is translated by the English word "wait" is the word "anameno" and it is found only once in the New Testament.   

(4) Anameno. Again it is a compound word: "meno" meaning to remain, to continue, to dwell; "ana" a preposition with the basic root meaning “up.” A strange combination, “to remain and up, to continue and up.”   

1 Thessalonians 1:10.

"And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come."

Since this is the only use of the word, the context becomes important.

They had turned to God from idols, "to serve the living and true God: and to wait for his Son from heaven . . . .." The word used here would never be used of a patient sitting in a dentist's office waiting his turn to sit in the dentist's chair; nor of a sick man dying of an incurable disease, resignedly waiting the end. The word involved earnestness, eagerness, longing, expec-tancy. It expressed an earnestness and intensity of desire that was directed toward the appearance of the Son.  It was hardly a passive, inactive resig-nation of believers. The context clearly shows they were labouring, working and sounding forth the Word of the Lord everywhere.   

If the first century believers were living in the expectancy of the return of the Lord, how much more should contemporary believers? If the Apostle Paul could write: "knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand." (Rom. 13:11,12), how much truer must it be for today?  It is my firm conviction that we are living in the last days. The restoration of Israel as a nation, the contemporary deification of the state, the inroads of rationalistic thought into the Christian Church, the present efforts to form a world Church, yea even a one world religion, all could be paving the way for the great apostasy and the manifestation of the man of lawlessness --- all seems to be preparing the stage for the end of this present age in a way which no previous generation has witnessed.   


APPENDIX B “ANYMOMENTISM”

Problem: When did the doctrine of any-momentism arise?  Here is a ques-tion that all pretribulationists should ponder.  They acknowledge that there are definite time consuming events which precede the Posttrib Coming. Yet,  notwithstanding this self evident fact, the Second Coming does not lose its practical influence to godly living if it is rightly understood. To insist that only "anymomentism" effects godly living flies right into the face of Scrip-ture (2 Peter 3:8-18).  Dr. John F. Walvoord makes much of this argument in his book, The Rapture Question.  He uses "imminent” but does so as being  synonymous with "any-moment." He makes the point: "If the Church is destined to endure the persecutions of the tribulation, it is futile to proclaim the coming of the Lord as an imminent hope." (p. 11).   

Dr. Walvoord's argument might at first sight appear very convincing, but there exist real problems which confront the pretrib "any-moment" theory: When did the Posttrib coming cease to be the hope of the early believers (which incidentally, as has already been noted, was "imminent" as far as the clear language of the Gospels and the Epistles are concerned), and when were they given an any-moment pretrib coming hope instead?   

Since I barely touched upon this problem in my earlier study, and since it is an important issue I can hardly fail to give it some consideration. Personally, I feel that it presents an insurmountable difficulty to the pretrib position. The period before the ascension of the Lord contains two examples of what could possibly be called “any-momentism."  The first concerns the crowd at the house of Zacchaeus: "they supposed that the kingdom of God was immediately to appear" (Luke 19:11). The  Lord dispelled this delusion with an interesting parable (Luke 19:11-27). Clearly, he allowed for an interval of time. The second passage need not necessarily be understood as being "at any moment," but it certainly displays a degree of nearness which would qualify for a strong note of imminency. The apostles had been with the Lord for some forty days listening to His teaching concerning "the kingdom of God." At the end of this time they ask:

"Lord, wilt thou AT THIS TIME restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6)

But even here, the context reveals that there would be a considerable lapse of time. They were to be endued with power, and then they were to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). The Lord had said in the Olivet discourse that the Gospel would be preached in all the world (Matthew 24:14). He obviously knew that it would indeed be preached in all the world (Matt. 26:13). Moreover, the context of Matthew 24 clearly shows that there would be a series of time consuming events. When during this period of time did the first century believers start preaching an any-moment coming?

From Acts 3:19-21, it can be concluded that the Second Coming was immi-nent.  The contingency of Israel's repentance was the main delaying factor. Now whatever problem we are supposed to have with Matthew 24, as far as any-moment imminency is concerned, it is quite obvious that the pretribu-lationist has it also, for how are Peter's words to be taken in view of the time consuming events of Matthew 24?  We have no doubt that Peter's offer was a bona fide offer.  However, if Israel had repented, how long would it have been before Christ returned? Would he have come immediately?  There is a human and divine aspect to this particular context.  It is, of course, with the human side that the problem exists.   

Regardless of such a problem, it can hardly be denied that imminency was involved. This does not mean an any-moment unheralded coming was the case. Some readers will feel that this presents no problem for they believe that the any-moment pretribulation coming was revealed to and through Paul. This however still presents a problem, for the historical events before Paul and after Paul show that the Second Coming of Christ was always on the horizon of fulfillment to those first century believers and Paul was not excluded.  Let the reader consider the following facts to appreciate the problem. They make it very clear that the any-moment unheralded coming theory is patently false.

1. Paul's commission. Acts 9:15,16. There was a career of service before him. From what he wrote in 2 Thessalonians 2 he did not expect an any-moment coming. His whole life was filled with events that involved the future; some which were stamped with the imprimatur of the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:29; 21:4, 11; 23:11).   
2.  Paul foretold an apostasy yet future (1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-14).  Although it does seem from 2 Timothy 3:5 that Paul conveyed the thought that the last days had already begun.   
3. Peter's predicted death (John 21:18, 19). Peter also warned of religious corruption and apostasy after his death.  All involve time-consuming events that would conflicts with the any-moment idea.
4. Paul spoke of his approaching death (1 Timothy 4:6).   
5. There is the prophecy that Jerusalem would fall. Even the Scofield notes have Luke 21:20-24 referring to this event in A.D. 70.   

The early Church was looking for the blessed hope in spite of the precursors to its fulfillment. To John it was ever impending and he went so far as to say, "it is the last hour." (1 John 2:18). We find no real inconsistency in this fact. From his standpoint, it was definitely the last hour. He had seen "the things" of Matthew 24:4-14 fulfilled therefore he really believed that the coming of Christ was nigh (Matt. 24:32-34). When we look forward to an event the longing is not necessarily depreciated by the knowledge that certain things must happen prior to its realization.   

In like manner the Apostles knew that certain events would precede the coming of the Lord, but this in no way diminished their longing for its realization.  To them it was a present hope that could come to pass within the scope of their lifetime; therefore it was a hope for which they longed and which in its practical bearing was an incentive for holy living.   

In conclusion, may I be permitted to say again, as no doubt many others have said in ages gone by, that we personally feel that there is every reason to expect the return of Christ within our lifetime. History seems to be rushing headlong towards some impending crisis and the international scene, especially in relation to Israel, would indicate that the scene is being set for the consummation of the age. Maybe sooner than any of us dare imagine we shall take part in the triumphant Parousia of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords Who is none other than our blessed Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.   

"MARANATHA - EVEN SO COME LORD JESUS"