SECOND LOOK AT
THE SECOND COMING
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.
".... IRON SHARPENETH IRON; SO A MAN SHARPENETH THE
COUNTENANCE OF HIS FRIEND...." PROVERBS
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."
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
(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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
"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
Perhaps it would be advisable to add the one remaining reference
containing "phaneroo," for it is clearly related to what is said in
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
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.
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
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
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
"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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
A. 2:1 Deliverance at His parousia (cf. 1 Thess. 1:10;
B. 2:8 Destruction at His parousia (cf. 2 Thess.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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;
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
3. Synchronises with the judgment of the dead and the
4. Is to be the object of the believer’s affection.
5. Is set forth as "the blessed hope."
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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
The "apokalupsis" of Christ:
1. Is what the Corinthian saints were anticipating.
2. Is the time when the Thessalonian saints can expect
3. Is the moment when those to whom Peter writes can expect to rejoice
with exceeding joy.
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
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."
"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
"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
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
"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
prejudice, between plain fact and pious fancy and that they may
by Thy grace to be faithful to Thy Word whatever be the
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.
1. James 5:7
1 Corinthians 15:23 __ __
2. James 5:8
1 Corinthians 15:52 __ __
3. Matthew 16:27 __
4. Matthew 16:28 __
5. Matthew 24:13 __
__ 31. Luke
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
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
16. 1 Thessalonians 2:19 __ __
17. 1 Thessalonians 3:13 __
__ 43. Mark
18. 1 Thessalonians 4:15 __
__ 44. Mark
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
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.
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."
In the original language there are three different Greek words
translated by the English word "watch" used in connection with the
(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.
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.
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.
"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
"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
"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
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
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,
(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
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,
"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
(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
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
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
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.
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
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
"Lord, wilt thou AT THIS TIME restore again the kingdom to Israel?"
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
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
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
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.
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"