THE RAPTURE QUESTION
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- An Examination of the “Thief Passages”
(1) The Words of Jesus
(2) The Words of Peter
(3) The Words of Paul
- The Rapture – Before or After the Tribulation?
(1) The World and Tribulation – God’s Way of Deliverance
(2) The Church is called to remain until the “End of the World”
(a) Parable of the Wheat and the Tares
(b) Parable of the Good Fish and the Bad Fish
(c) The Days of Lot
(d) The Days of Noah
(3) The Church is called to remain until the !Day of the Lord” or “the Day of God”
(4) The Church is called to remain until the Last Day”
(5) The Church is called to remain until the “Last Trump”
(6) The Church is called to remain until Christ is “Revealed”
- WILL THE RETURN OF CHRIST BE IN TWO STAGES
- False Argument #1: The “Rapture” is not the Second Coming of the Lord
- False Argument #2: The Misuse of the Greek to prove a point.
III. COMING “FOR” AND COME “WITH” THE SAINTS
- The use of the Word “APANTESIS” (Meet)
(1) The Parable of the Five Wise and the Five Foolish Virgins
(2) The Use of the Word “Meet” in Paul’s Journey to Rome
- AN EXAMINATION OF PRE-TRIBULATIONAL “PROOF TEXTS”
- The “Absence” of the Word “Church” in Revelation 4 – 18
- John as a “Type” of the Church in Revelation 4 – 18
- The Use of the Words, “Come up hither,” in Revelation 4
- The Church in Philadelphia –
(1) The actual Church in Philadelphia – the primary Application
(2) The Church in Philadelphia as a Representative of a Church Age
- God’s “Keeping Power” from Temptation
- The Use of the Word “Escape” in Luke 21, etc.
- WILL CHRIST COME AT ANY MOMENT
- Events, which must precede the Second Caning
(1) The Ascension
(2) The Gift of the Holy Spirit
(3) The Preaching of the Gospel to All the World
(4) The Destruction of the Second Temple
(5) The Death of Peter
(6) The Mystery concerning John
(7) The Great Falling Away (Apostasy) and the Revelation of the Man of Sin (Antichrist)
- The “Day of Christ,” the “Day of Jesus Christ,” the “Day of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the “Day of the Lord Jesus,” and the “Day of the Lord”
- OTHER RAPTURE VIEWS : THE MID- TRIBULATIONAL RAPTURE, THE PARTIAL RAPTURE AND THE SPLIT RAPTURE
THE RAPTURE QUESTION
Most of the proponents of the teaching that is called the “Pre-Tribulational Rapture” interpretation of the prophetic/apokalyptic writings in Scripture teach that the Second Coming of Jesus will occur in two progressive stages. The first stage is identified as the Rapture, where Jesus is seen as coming for the saints. At a later point, there is the Revelation, which is known as His coming with His saints. The subsequent interval between these two events is what we identify as the seven year period of Daniel’s Seventieth Week.
People who teach that the Second Coming of the Lord will be in two stages typically believe that passages like Revelation 1:7: “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen,” refer to His Revelation. They identify this appearance as His coming which is displayed in open power and glory. Conversely, the Rapture is presented as a quiet event, secret and invisible coming of Christ for His Church. The following statements are from assorted Pre-Tribulational advocates that are representative voices of this position.
“Quickly and INVISIBLY, unperceived by the world, the Lord will come as a thief in the night and catch away His waiting saints.” (Silver, The Lord’s Return, p. 260.)
“His appearance in the clouds will be veiled to the human eye and NO ONE WILL SEE HIM. He will slip in, and slip out; move in to get His jewels and slip out as under the cover of night.” (Roberts, How to be Personally prepared for the Second Coming of Christ, (p. 34.)
“(The Rapture) will be a SECRET rapture – QUIET, NOISELESS, sudden as the steps of a thief in the night. All that the world will know will be that multitudes at once have gone.” (Bishop, The Doctrine of Grace, p. 341) (Emphasis added)
In order to adequately examine this subject, we need to ask a question: do the Scriptures actually teach that the rapture will be a secret, invisible and relatively quiet happening? In order to answer this question, we will examine the primary passages of Scripture that are indicative of this perspective throughout this study. These passages may have already been addressed in other chapters of this teaching series, however this examination will be focused and direct in addressing the issue refuting the Pre-Tribulation point of view.
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command (shout), with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians. 4:16-17).
It is difficult to see Paul’s depiction as a quiet or secret event. Whether we take the “loud command/shout,” the “voice of the archangel,” or the “trumpet call of God,” in the literal sense or we take the position that it only has a figurative meaning, in either perspective, Paul does not convey the concept of a clandestine and hushed experience. If anything, it is indicative that the coming of the Lord will be a earsplitting, raucous, open and extraordinary affair. In the course of the sound of the Lord Himself coming down from heaven with a shout, the voice of the archangel, the trumpet of God, there will be accompanying sounds of praise and elation proceeding from the infinite multitudes of believers who will be loosed from their earthly constraints and finally allowed to meet the Lord in the air. It stretches credulity to see this as the depiction of a secreted, veiled and silent event. All the same and in spite of every indication that speaks to the opposite, this passage is repeatedly used as a text for messages and books that depict the Rapture of the Church as the secret, invisible, and silent coming of Christ.
Let me clear from the offset, Scripture does instruct us that Christ will return “as a thief in the night.” What this means is only the time of His coming is unknown. It will happen in such a way that it will come as a absolute bombshell to those who are not watching for His arrival. However, the employing of this idiom never indicates in any way or form that the episode will be secretive or a quiet happening. The different “thief” portions of Scripture are found in the teachings of Jesus, Peter and Paul. These passages are what we will now examine more closely in order to arrive at a consensus as to their meaning.
The ideal starting point is to take a look at the words of Jesus: “But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him… But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him (Matthew 24:43, 44; Luke 12:39, 40).” When Jesus returns, His return will only be like the coming of a thief in the night in the sense that we do not know when it will happen. The injunction Scripture gives us is that we must be watchful at all times. With this said, there is nothing in this passage that indicates that the event itself will be a secret.
Instead of teaching that He would return in a secret coming, Jesus actually warned against this concept: “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. (24 For false Christ’s and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it.) 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28 For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together (Matt. 24:23-27). Whatever else may be included in these statements, one thing is certain; such wording is surely contrary to the idea of secrecy in connection with the coming of Christ.
Also in the context of Matthew 24, Jesus stressed that men do not know the day nor the hour of the Second Coming (Matt. 24:36) It will be “as in the days of Noah” when people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage – not expecting the destruction to fall. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be (verses 38, 39). The wicked knew not until the flood came – but obviously when it came they knew it. It was no secret event. It was observed by believers and unbelievers alike.
Remember therefore how you have received and heard; Jesus said, hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you (Revelation 3:3), Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watches (Revelation 16:15). Here again is the warning to “watch,” for we know not the time of His coming. He will come as a thief. But there is nothing here to indicate a secret and quiet coming of Christ in which He will mysteriously take believers out of this world so that no one will know what happened to them or who took them. We should not think that the Lord will prowl around like a thief, working in the dark, afraid of being discovered. The meaning is that He will come “as a thief,” not that He will act as a thief.”
Next, we look at the words of Peter. Though scoffers will say: “Where is the promise of His coming?” Peter assures us that the day of the Lord will come. We do not know when, however, for “the day of the Lord will come AS A THIEF IN THE NIGHT” But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up (2 Peter 3:10).
However, it is evident that Peter did not mean that the event itself will be quiet, for he goes on to say that it will be accompanied with a great NOISE in which the heavens shall pass away with a GREAT NOISE.” This is just the opposite of what many teach.
The final New Testament “Thief” passage is found in the words of Paul. Turning again to the noted rapture passage (1 Thessalonians 4), we find that speaking of the Lord’s coming with a shout, the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, Paul goes on to explain that we do not know WHEN this will be, for that day will come as a thief in the night. But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2). What is unknown and hidden? It cannot be that the coming of Christ will be a secret event, for the context speaks of this as being glorious, open and noisy. Again, we see that it is the time that is hidden. We know not the day or the hour.
Paul continues with these words: For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief (verses 3 & 4); for those that truly follow Christ will “watch” at all times and seasons.
THE RAPTURE – BEFORE OR AFTER THE TRIBULATION?
Having now examined the rapture passage (1 Thessalonians 4) and all of the “thief passages, we fail to find any scriptural basis for the teaching that the rapture will be a secret, invisible, quiet event. If anything, the evidence is to the contrary. Where, then, do the Scriptures place the rapture? Will it be before the Tribulation (Daniel’s Seventieth Week – a period of seven years) or will it be at the end of this period?
THE WORLD & TRIBULATION – GOD’S WAY OF DELIVERANCE
Shortly before His death, Jesus spoke these words to His disciples: In the world you will have tribulation… (John 16:33). The verses that follow the prayer in which Jesus prayed for His disciples record what He prayed to the Heavenly Father. He said: I do not pray that You would take them out of the world, but that You would keep them from evil (John 17:15).
Though it would be no easy task to stand before Jesus, though they would be persecuted, though in the world they would have tribulation, Jesus did not pray that the church would be taken out of the world. The church was to remain in the world, but it would not be of the world.
Some might object, however, that Jesus was praying only for His immediate disciples of that time, but this is not the case. I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word (verse 20). This includes us today. Haven’t we believed on Jesus as a result of the message that was handed down to us from those original disciples of Christ? Indeed, we have. So Jesus was praying for us also. He said so. He prayed we would be kept from the evil of the world, but He did not pray that we would be taken out of the world – even though in the world we would have tribulation.
Let us suppose for a moment that Jesus had told believers: “In the world there shall be tribulation … . but I will pray that you will be taken out of the world.” If Jesus said this, those who teach the Pre-Tribulational Rapture would have a basis for their position – and this statement would no doubt be quoted as a proof text. But since this is NOT what the verse says – but just the OPPOSITE – surely this should be regarded as evidence against the idea of the special, “Secret Pre-Tribulational Rapture” designed to take the Church out of this world so that it would escape the suffering and tribulation of the Antichrist.
THE CHURCH IS CALLED TO REMAIN UNTIL THE “END OF THE WORLD”
Instead of the Church being taken out of the world, Jesus taught that it would remain in the world to accomplish a definite purpose to preach the Gospel. Jesus commissioned His disciples to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel… and teach all nations.” In connection with this commission He promised: “Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (aion/age) (Matthew 28:19-20).
According to this, how long will the Church be in the world fulfilling this divine commission? The answer is that the Church will remain in the world until the END of the age. Think about it: Jesus promise to be with the Church until the END of the age would be strange if it is His plan to remove the Church seven years before that time. If, when the end of the age comes, the Church would no longer be on the earth, this promise would be rendered meaningless.
THE PARABLE OF THE WHEAT AND THE TARES
Earlier, in the Book of Matthew, Jesus made it very clear that the righteous would not be separated from the wicked until the end of the age.
Jesus spoke a parable about “a man which sowed good seed in his field” and while men slept, “his enemy came and sowed tares (weeds) among the wheat.” When the crop had grown a little, the servants discovered what had happened. Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn (Matthew 13:24-30).
We are not left to speculate as to the proper meaning of this parable, for Jesus Himself gave the interpretation. The “good seed” (the wheat) is sown by “the Son of Man” – Jesus Christ. The tares, “the children of the wicked one,” are sown by the enemy – “the devil.” They are sown in the same field – “the world,” where both grow together until the harvest. And when will this be? “The harvest is the END OF THE WORLD.” He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels (verses 37-39).
Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Verses 40-43)! Plainly, the time of separation between those which do iniquity and the righteous is at the END of this age.
Jesus said that “BOTH” would grow “TOGETHER” until the “END OF THE WORLD” – and THEN the harvest would occur, producing the great separation.. This is Biblical teaching. But the Pre-Tribulational Rapture, position, to be consistent, would have to say that BOTH will NOT grow together in the field until the end of the world, for they teach that the wheat portion will be harvested sooner, being separated from the wicked seven years BEFORE the end of the world.
In other words, instead of teaching that the separation of the wheat and the tares will be at “the end of the world,” those that hold the Secret Rapture position say that the wheat will be gathered FIRST, and then, seven years later, the tares will be gathered out. This is the point that C.I. Scofield attempts to make in his footnote on page 1016 of the Scofield Reference Bible: “At the end of this age (v. 40), the tares are set apart for burning, but FIRST the wheat is gathered into the barn.” But if anything might be implied as coming “first,” it would be the judgment upon the wicked, for in the parable portion it said: “Gather ye together FIRST the tares (for destruction), but gather the wheat into the barn” (Matthew 13:30).
What? The Scripture says: “First the tares.” Scofield says just the opposite. He says: “First the wheat is gathered.” Such direct contradiction to what the Bible itself says ought to be enough to make any Christian suspicious. And such a twisting of terms to uphold a theory ought to immediately make us see how weak the teaching of a rapture seven years before the end of the age really is.
I repeat: according to Jesus, the righteous and the wicked will both be in the world until the harvest – The end of the world. And if the great separation is not until the end of the world, the idea of the Church being removed from the earth seven years before that time is an impossibility.
THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD FISH-AND THE BAD FISH
Looking further in Matthew 13, we find another parable and its interpretation which stresses the end of the world as the time of great separation. Jesus likens the Kingdom to a net: Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, 48 which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:47-50).
We see, then, that the parable of the wheat and the tares (as well as the parable of the good and bad fish both clearly pinpoint the time of separation as the end of the world. It should also be noted that the time of this event is based on the words that Jesus gave in explaining these parables. This is important, for doctrine must always be based upon clear statements, not upon symbolic or parabolic expressions, which might be capable of several meanings. According to Jesus, at the end of the world, those that belong to be spared, while destruction shall fall upon the wicked.
THE DAYS OF LOT
Jesus compared the time of the end to the days of Lot: As it was in the days of Lot… they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built… all common routine things that people have been doing all along, not expecting any catastrophe – Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed (Luke 17:28-30).
Even as Lot the believer, was spared, and all the unbelievers of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, so when Christ returns, believers will be spared (caught up to meet the Lord in the air) while THAT “SAME DAY” fiery destruction shall fall upon the unbelievers. Needless to say this passage does NOT say that Lot went out of Sodom and then, seven years later, fiery destruction fell upon them. Rather, it says that all these things happened the same day.
THE DAYS OF NOAH
Jesus also likened His Second Coming to the destruction of the flood in the days of Noah. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be (or, as Luke’s account says, “destroyed them all Luke 17:27), so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be (Matthew 24:37-40).
When the flood came, Noah was spared and the unbelievers were destroyed. That destruction produced a great separation. So shall it be at the Second Coming of Christ. Christians will be caught up to meet Christ; unbelievers will be destroyed. Though the “world” was formerly destroyed by water, Peter points out that the destruction that the world now faces will be by fire (2 Peter 3:6-7).
THE CHURCH IS CALLED TO REMAIN UNTIL THE “DAY OF THE LORD” OR “THE DAY OF GOD”
Peter had personally heard Jesus give the promise: I will come again, and receive you to myself (John 14:3). Years passed and apparently some began to scoff at this promise, saying: “Where is the PROMISE of His coming?” To this, Peter replied: The Lord is not slack concerning His PROMISE . . . the day of the Lord will come (2 Peter 3:4-10). Let us now notice the way in which Peter said this promise would be fulfilled: But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved… (2 Peter 3:10-11). Peter believed the coming of the Lord would be at the very end, when the present “heavens and earth shall pass away,” at the end of the age.
Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, Peter concludes, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat (Verses 11 and 12)? This day shall bring destruction upon the un-believers and deliverance for those who believe. But if believers were to be taken out of the world seven years before the end, why would Peter exhort them to be “looking for” the coming of the day of God in which the heavens shall pass away? Surely be would not attempt to encourage them by something that will happen at the END of the age, if their real hope was an event to take place seven years earlier.
According to Peter, the day of the Lord, which will come as a thief in the night is the time when the heavens shall pass away and the earth shall melt with fervent heat. And according to Paul, “the day of the Lord” which comes as a thief in the night (the same expression) is the time of the Rapture
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape (1 Thessalonians 4:16-5:3). The passage is all connected together.
A study of 2 Peter 3 and 1 Thessalonians 4-5 plainly reveals that the day of the Lord that comes as a thief in the night, is the time when Christ will descend from heaven with a shout. Believers will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, destruction will fall upon the unbelievers and the present heavens and earth shall pass away with a great noise.
THE CHURCH IS CALLED TO REMAIN UNTIL THE “LAST DAY”
Jesus also linked His Second Coming with the time when heaven and earth shall pass away. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. 36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only… Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming (Matthew 24:35-36, 42). This passage clearly refers to the time when Christ will return and gather believers – the time of which “no man Knows” and that we must “watch.” Did Jesus say that this would happen before the seven year tribulation period? No. Instead, this passage points to the END of the age – when heaven and earth shall pass away – as the time when Christ will return.
Even the ancient Job implied that the resurrection would not take place until the heavens shall pass away at the end of the age. But man dies and is laid away; indeed he breathes his last and where is he? 11 As water disappears from the sea, and a river becomes parched and dries up, 12 So man lies down and does not rise. Till the heavens are no more, they will not awake nor be roused from their sleep (Job 14:10-12; 19:26-27).
Expressions such as till the heavens are no more, heaven and earth shall pass away, and similar expressions all seem to indicate the very end of things as we know them now – the end of the age. Until that time, the dead shall not be resurrected. This conclusion is also seen in the Scriptures which say the resurrection will occur in the LAST DAY. Martha, for example, believed her brother, Lazarus would rise again in the resurrection AT THE LAST DAY (John 6:39). And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day… No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:40, 44). And again He repeated the words in verse 54: I will raise him up AT THE LAST DAY.
With this evidence in mind, certain conclusions are apparent. Since the “catching up” or Rapture occurs at the same time as the resurrection of the dead in Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17), it is plain to see that the Rapture, will take place AT THE LAST DAY and not seven years before the last day. Not only do the Scriptures about the resurrection “at the last day” point to the end of the age as the time of Christ’s return, but the same evidence can be seen from a study of the Scriptures dealing with the expression “the last trump.”
THE CHURCH IS CALLED TO REMAIN UNTIL THE “LAST TRUMP”
Turning again to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, we read For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Notice three things that are mentioned here: 1) the TRUMPET sounds; 2) the RESURRECTION of the dead in Christ occurs; and 3) the catching up of believers to meet the Lord in the air happens.
Basically, there are three things included in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52: Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. Again, we have the following: 1) the TRUMPET shall sound; 2) the RESURRECTION of the dead in Christ; 3) the living saints are CHANGED (which all agree, is when this mortal puts on immortality and believers rise to meet the Lord in the air).
Both of these passages mention the sounding of the trumpet, but the latter passage specifies that this trumpet is the LAST TRUMPET. Bearing this in mind, we turn to Revelation 8:2 in which we read And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. There are seven of these trumpets, so the last trumpet (in linking this passage with the others) would be the seventh.
Let us now observe the events that are connected with the sound that emanates with the LAST trumpet Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” 16 And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying: We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned. 18 The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth (Revelation 11:15-18).
Again, we notice the same three things that were included in the other three passages: 1) the TRUMPET sounds (the seventh – the LAST TRUMPET); 2) the time of the dead to be raised – the RESURRECTION; and 3) the saints REWARDED, which would include their having changed from mortality to immortality; caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
These things indicate that the Rapture will be at the END of the age, at the LAST DAY, at the LAST TRUMP. But according to the Pre-Tribulationalists, the Rapture would have to take place at the time of the first trumpet even before, since – according to this interpretation – the Church will be gone when the trumpets of Revelation sound. Revelation 11:18 says that the sounding of the seventh trumpet – the last trumpet – will be the time of the dead to be resurrected. God will then `give reward to . . . the prophets and the saints. Where, then, is there any room for the idea that before any of these trumpets sound the saints will have already been raptured to heaven to be rewarded?
Jesus made it clear that there will be no “secret” coming before His coming in glory with the holy angels. For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels (Mark 8:38). In that day, Christ shall be ashamed of some; of others, He will not be ashamed. Some will be accepted and some will be rejected. WHEN? When He comes in the glory of the Father.
It is agreed that the coming of Christ in glory with the holy angels is at the END of the age, and this verse actually shows that there will be no secret coming prior to this. Why? Because if there had been a secret coming of Christ seven years before His coming in glory with the angels, whether Christ would be ashamed of people or not would have already taken place.
THE CHURCH IS CALLED TO REMAIN UNTIL CHRIST IS REVEALED
Finally, the Christians at Thessalonica were enduring “persecutions and tribulations” and were being troubled by unbelievers. But Paul encouraged them with the truth that they would be given rest from their troubles and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe because our testimony among you was believed (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).
In this passage, we notice as in the others that the reward of the righteous and the destruction that shall befall the wicked are interwoven with each other as to time, with both occurring at the deliverance of His troubled saints when He comes in “flaming fire.” No secret rapture here.
When will the Lord render vengeance to the wicked on one hand and comfort to the saints on the other? The answer is clear: “WHEN the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them who do not God.” The time of His being glorified in His saints is also the time when destruction will befall the wicked. There is no interval of seven years between the two. It does not say that Christ will come to be glorified in His saints and then came again seven years later to bring destruction upon the oppressors.
- II) WILL THE RETURN OF CHRIST BE IN TWO STAGES?
When Jesus ascended into heaven and His disciples stood watching, two angels said: And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven (Acts 1:11).
According to this verse, the same Jesus that those disciples knew and loved will return “in like manner” as they saw Him go into heaven. They did not see Him go into heaven in two separate ascensions; and so it is clearly implied that His return will not be in two separate comings.
Christ was offered once to bear the sins of man – at His FIRST coming so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation (Heb. 9:28). Here we read of the SECOND coming of Christ. Those who hold that Christ will return for His Church, and return again seven years later, are actually teaching a doctrine not only of the SECOND coming of Christ, but a THIRD coming as well. However, the idea of a THIRD coming of Christ is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible. This terminology is foreign to the Scriptures.
Some explain that they believe in one Second Coming, but that it will be in two stages. However, this does not really solve the problem. If the Rapture is a separate “stage” from the coming of Christ in power and glory, how could each stage be the SECOND COMING? If they are separate and distinct events, each could not be the second coming, for the coming that would follow the second would still be the third.
But some teach that there will be two second comings. Surely this is a contradiction in terms. The Scriptures speak of the Lord’s second coming (singular), never of the second comings (plural). We repeat, the term “two second comings” is in itself contradictory.
FALSE ARGUMENT #1: THE RAPTURE IS NOT THE SECOND COMING OF THE LORD
In attempting to explain this difficulty which the Pre-Tribulationists must face, we have actually heard it argued that the Rapture is not the COMING of the Lord. One writer puts it this way: “Strictly speaking, the Rapture is NOT THE SECOND COMING AT ALL. The second coming is the visible, local, bodily appearing of Christ in the clouds of heaven as He returns to this earth . . . in power and glory” (Boyd, Ages and Dispensations p. 60).
Another says: “The thrilling event which will both mark the end of the day of Grace and open the door for the Great Tribulation is the Rapture . . . Specifically speaking, THIS IS NOT THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST. Rather, this is the Rapture, or the catching up, of the true church” (Orr, Antichrist, Armageddon and the End of the World P. 9).
Another emphatically states that the Rapture is NOT the Second Coming and that “the Scriptures referring to the Rapture could not refer to the second coming” (Hall, Prophesy Marches On, VOL. 21 pp. 36, 39).
According to these Pre-Tribulational writers, the Rapture will take place first, and the COMING of Christ will take place seven years later. But attempting to make the Rapture a separate and earlier event from the coming of Christ is a teaching that is totally contrary to the united testimony of the Bible.
For example, Jesus said: For false Christ’s and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:44). (Emphasis added) why would Jesus warn about being ready for the COMING of the Son of Man, if really what we are to be ready for is a Secret Rapture that is to take place seven years before His coming?
This same point can be seen in Revelation 16:15: Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame. Why would such a warning be given about His COMING if seven years before His COMING believers would have already been taken to heaven?
Or notice Hebrews 10:36-37: For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 37 “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Believers are thus exhorted to be patient until the coming of Christ. But why point these to the coming of the Lord if their real hope was something that was to occur seven years earlier?
Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain (James 5:7). Again, why exhort the brethren to be patient unto the COMING of the Lord, if a Secret Rapture after His coming was when they would be gathered unto Him?
So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come (Occupy till I COME)” (Luke 19:13). But how could the occupy until He comes, if the Church will be taken away seven years after His coming?
Paul speaks of Christians as so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ “waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7). If Paul believed Christians would be caught up to heaven in a Secret Rapture seven years before the Lord’s coming, why did he not speak of Christians as waiting for that? Why would he tell them to wait for something that would take place seven years after they had already been raptured? Obviously, to Paul, the coming of the Lord and. the Rapture were considered as one and the same event.
Paul prayed that the Christians at Thessalonica would be preserved blameless until the COMING of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Again, the event for which they were watching was the “COMING” of Christ. Thy pray for than to be preserved blameless unto the caning of Christ if the Rapture is an event that will take place seven years before the Lord’s coming?
Such expressions as these we have given, be ready for the coming of the Lord,” “watch for “the coming of the Lord,” “be patient for His coming,” “waiting for His coming,” “preserved unto His coming,” “occupy until His coming,” etc. all show that it’s when Christ COMES that believers are gathered to meet the Lord. In view of this, the concept that the Rapture is a separate event from the coming of the Lord is simply not true. The rapture of believers to meet the Lord in the air and the coming of the Lord are one and the same event.
- B) FALSE ARGUMENT #2: THE MISUSE OF THE GREEK
But what about the meaning of the Greek words that are used to describe the Second Coming? Those who believe that Christ will return in two separate stages, commonly teach that a study of the original Greek makes this distinction clear. One writer, for example, says: “The TWO PHASES of Christ’s second coming are clearly distinguished in the Greek. The ‘Parousia’ . . . is His coming for His saints. The ‘Apokalypsis’ (the revealing, unveiling, making manifest) is His coming with the saints” (Sabiers, Where Are the Dead? (pp. 123, 124), (Emphasis added).
But instead of the Greek terms used in describing the Second Coming indicating two separate events, we find that these terms are used interchangeably in such a way that they show there is but ONE Second Coming – not two. The following is a list of six words that are used to describe the Second Coming of Christ and the shades of meaning they present:
PAROUSIA – This word stresses the actual personal presence of one who comes and arrives. It is used in James 5:7 – “Be patient . . . unto the COMING of the Lord,” Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain etc.
APOKALYPSIS – This word stresses appearing, revelation. It is used in 2 Thessalonians 1:7 – “The Lord shall descend from heaven with His mighty angels,” and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels etc.
EPIPHANIA – This word means manifestation and speaks of the glory that will attend Christ when He comes. It is used in 1 Timothy 6:14 – “The appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,” that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing etc.
PHANEROO This word means to render apparent. It is used in 1 John 3:2: “When He shall come, we shall be like Him,” Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
ERCHOMAI – This word indicates the act of coming, to come from one place to another. It is used in Luke 19:13: “Occupy till I come,” etc. So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas,[a] and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’
HEKO – This word stresses the point of arrival, as “I am coming and I am now here.” It is used in Revelation 2:25 – “Hold fast till I come,” But hold fast what you have till I come.
This first word on our list, PAROUSIA, is the one most commonly used in reference to the “first stage” of the second advent or Rapture as opposed to the words APOKALUPSIS or EPIPHANEIA which are supposed to refer to the “second stage” of the second advent or Coming of the Lord. PAROUSIA stresses the actual personal presence of one that has came and arrived. There is nothing in this word to convey the idea of secrecy. Paul, for example, was comforted by the “coming (PAROUSIA) of Titus” who brought word to him from the Corinthian Christians, Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus (2 Corinthians 7:6). Likewise, he spoke of the ‘coming (PAROUSIA) of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus,” I am glad about the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for what was lacking on your part they supplied (1 Corinthians 16:17). In writing to the Philippians, Paul said he would be “coming (PAROUSIA) to see them again” that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again (Philippians 1:26).
Paul used this word in the noted “Rapture” chapter which speaks of the “coming (PAROUSIA) of the Lord” when the dead in Christ will be raised and believers will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessqlonians 4:15-17). But was the PAROUSIA here to be a Pre-Tribulational coming? Turning to Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonian believers, Paul again wrote about “the coming (PAROUSIA) of our Lord” and “our gathering together with Him” (2 Thessalonians 2:1). Here he explained that the “PAROUSIA,” will not take place until AFTER the MAN OF SIN IS REVEALED AND HAS CARRIED OUT HIS EVIL WORK: “The Lord shall destroy (the man of sin) with the brightness of His coming (PAROUSIA)” (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
According to this, the coming (PAROUSIA) of the Lord, the resurrection and the Rapture, will cane AFTER the reign of the man of sin – not before.
In 2 Peter 3, we find more proof that the “PAROUSIA” is not a secret coming that will take place BEFORE our Lord’s coming in flaming fire and glory. According to Peter, But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (verses 10-12). The word “PAROUSIA” in these places obviously cannot refer to a secret rapture seven years before the end.
Instead of the Rapture being a secret and invisible coming to be followed later by the Revelation, an open and visible coming, the Scriptures show that the Rapture and the Revelation are one and the same event, not two.
The word that is translated “revelation” in connection with Christ’s return is APOKALUPSIS, which stresses appearing, revelation. Notice its use in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10: and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is REVEALED (apokalupsis) from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed. This passage indicates that the time when Christ is REVEALED in flaming fire is also the time when He comes to be glorified in His saints. If the Rapture had taken place seven years before this, the saints would have already been glorified.
Peter also spoke of the revelation of Christ in 1 Peter 1:13: Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the REVELATION (apokolupsis) of Jesus Christ. Not to be redundant, but it is evident that the Rapture is not an earlier event that took place seven years prior to the “revelation.” If this had been the case, these instructions about being sober and hoping until the REVELATION of Christ would be meaningless, as it would not be necessary for believers to hope to the end for the grace to be brought to them at the REVELATION of Christ, if – in reality – this grace was to be brought to them at a separate Rapture seven years before.
Similarly in verse 7, Peter spoke of Christians as being that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation (apokolupsis) of Jesus Christ. But according to the Secret Rapture position, Christians will have already been taken to heaven and judged BEFORE the REVELATION. This clearly is not what the Bible says. Christians are pointed to the appearing or REVELATION of Christ, a fact which clearly indicates that the Rapture IS the Revelation.
The same word that is translated “revelation” and “appearing” (APOKALUPSIS) in the texts we have noticed, is used in 1 Corinthians 1:7, which speaks of Christians as “waiting for the coming (APOKALUPSIS) of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Again, it is apparent that the gathering of believers (the Rapture) is not something that precedes the revelation of Christ. Why would Christians be waiting for the “revelation” if the “Rapture” comes several years sooner?
We learn from these verses that the APOKALUPSIS – the REVELATION – is when Christians will be gathered; this is when they will meet the Lord; this is the day for which they are waiting. The Rapture is NOT one event and the Revelation a different event. Instead of two phases. being “clearly distinguished in the Greek” by the terms PAROUSIA and APOKALUPSIS, a study of these words and the context in which they are used reveals no such distinction whatsoever. To the contrary, both are used in a way that points us to ONE event, the Second Coming of Christ at-the end of the age!
Another word used in describing the return of Christ is EPIPHANEIA, meaning ‘manifestation” and the glory that will attend our Lord when He comes and which, like the word APOKALUPSIS, has been used by Pre-Tribulationists to mean the “second stage” of the Second Advent. This word is not applied to a Secret, Pre-Tribulational coming, for Christ will slay the man of sin with the BRIGHTNESS (EPIPHANIA) of His coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8): And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.
Bearing this in mind, let us look at 1 Timothy 6:14-15, in which this same word appears: that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing (epiphania), 15 which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Think it is appropriate to ask why would Christians be exhorted to keep the commandment until the EPIPHANEIA (the glorious appearing) if seven years before this there was to be a hidden, secret coming to take the Church out of the world? The EPIPHANEIA is when the man of sin is slain, it is when Christ comes in open glory and power. and it is until this time that Christians are exhorted to remain faithful. Such instructions would be completely out of place if Christians were to be raptured several years before the EPIPHANEIA.
The fourth word on our list is PHANEROO, meaning “to render apparent:” which also refers to Christ’s coming in open power and glory, and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away (1 Peter 5:4). This verse does not say that when the Chief Shepherd shall appear (be rendered. Apparent) that Christians will have ALREADY been raptured and crowned. The rewarding is when Christ shall APPEAR, and not at a supposed invisible coming seven years before.
John, like Peter, makes the same point: Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). As Christians, it is when Christ shall come and APPEAR (be rendered apparent) that we shall be like Him, not at a supposed invisible coming.
The Greek terms indicates the opposite of two second comings. This should be carefully noted. We know that the PAROUSIA is the same event as the APOKALUPSIS (revelation), not only by the actual context in which these words are used (as we have seen), but by the way they are used In Matthew 24:37. For example, we read: But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming (parousia) of the Son of Man be. Luke’s account of the passage says: And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man… Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed (apokalupsis) (Luke 17:26, 30). This shows us that the COMING (PAROUSIA) of Christ and the REVELATION (APOKALUPSIS) of Christ are the same event.
Matthew 24 we find that PAROUSIA is used to describe the great, event as ERCHOMAI. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming (parousia) of the Son of Man be… Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming (erchomai) at an hour you do not expect (Matthew 24:37, 44).
ERCHOMAI, in turn, is used to describe the same event as HEKO. In Hebrews 10:37, we read: For yet a little while, and He who is coming (erchomai) will come (heko) and will not tarry (Habakkuk 2:3-4).
HEKO and PAROUSIA are used together by Peter. In answer to the question: Where is the promise of His COMING (PAROUSIA)? Peter answers: But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up… The day of the Lord will COME (HEKO) as a thief in the night (2 Peter 3:10).
The word PAROUSIA and EPIPHANEIA are linked together in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 where we read that the man of sin will be destroyed by the BRIGHTNESS (EPIPHANEIA) of Christ’s COMING (PAROUSIA).
And finally, we noticed that the PAROUSIA is also the PHANEROO, as both expressions are used in the same verse, referring to the same event: And now, little children, abide in Him; that when He shall APPEAR (PHANEROO), we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His COMING (PAROUSIA) (1 John 2:28).
As this study indicates, all of these Greek words are used interchangeably, As in English, the different words present varied shades of meaning. Trying to split the Second Coming of Christ into “two stages” or “comings” on a supposed distinction in these Greek terms is completely artificial.
III) COMING “FOR” AND COMING “WITH” THE SAINTS
According to the Pre-Tribulational interpretation, Christ will come in a secret rapture “FOR” His saints, take them to heaven for seven years, and then come “WITH” the saints. The argument is that since He will come WITH His saints, He will have to come at an earlier time FOR the saints. But let us take a closer look at this argument. First of all, does the Bible anywhere use the expression “coming FOR the saints?”
Repeatedly, we have heard statements like this: “Jesus is coming back FOR a church without spot and wrinkle,” or “Soon Jesus will return FOR His Church to take it out of this world,” or “The Lord comes in the Rapture FOR His Church; after the Tribulation period, He comes with His Church,” etc. But the fact is: ‘the Bible never uses the expression, “coming FOR the saints.” Never. Surely, then, an interpretation that continually uses an expression that the Bible never uses should be subjected to close examination.
Once a person has the concept in mind that there will be a special coming of Christ FOR the Church, he then reads about believers being “caught up” and immediately concludes that they will be caught up to heaven. This is not what the passage says at all.
The Rapture passage, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, says that believers will be caught up . . . in the clouds, to meet the Lord. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. The place of meeting will be just above the earth in the clouds, in the air. These verses explain WHERE believers will meet the Lord. The place of meeting will be in the clouds, in the air. There is nothing in these verses to indicate that Christ will then turn around and take the Church back to heaven for seven years.
It is important to note that believers will rise to MEET the Lord. The word that is here translated MEET is a word that was used in reference to the coming of a king or governor to visit a city. As he approached, the citizens would go out to meet him and then escort him on the last part of his journey into the city; the word that is here translated MEET has precisely that same meaning here. As the Lord descends from heaven, believers will rise to MEET the Lord in the air in order to cane WITH Him as He continues to earth.
- A) THE USE OF THE WORD “APANTESIS” (MEET)
The word MEET in this verse is APANTESIS. It is used in two other passages which we will now consider to see exactly how this word is used in the Scripture.
1) THE PARABLE OF THE FIVE WISE AND THE FIVE FOOLISH VIRGINS
First, Matthew 25:1, 6: Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom… And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him. In this parable, the five wise and the five foolish virgins were to take their lamps and go out to MEET the Bridegroom. What for? To have Him turn around and take them back to where He had come from? If this had been the case, He would have been coming to meet them, instead of them going out to meet Him.
.The plain and simple truth is that when the Bridegroom approached, they went out to meet Him so as to escort Him back to where they had been waiting, to the place where the marriage was to be held. They went out to meet Him and after meeting Him, they returned “WITH Him.” Notice here how the word MEET was used.
2) PAUL’S JOURNEY TO ROME
Second: Acts 28:14-16: where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome. 15 And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. 16 Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him. Here the same point is seen. As Paul journeyed to Rome, certain brethren came out to meet him and then accompany him as he entered the city. it does not say that Paul got almost to Rome and then after meeting these brethren, took them back to where he had been. No, he continued on to Rome with them.
Let us suppose these men that met Paul had explained to the others where they were going, “We have heard that Paul is coming to our city, and we are going out to him and will come to him.” Would any have understood this to mean that they would meet Paul, go back to where Paul had come from, spend several years there with him and then return once again with Paul to Rome? None would ever get such a meaning. Yet, this is exactly the kind of “proof” that is offered for the idea of two second comings.- We are told that since the saints will come WITH Christ, that in going out to MEET Him, they must be taken back to where He was, then wait there several years so as to come WITH Him.
In the scriptural examples, people went out to MEET someone and then escorted that person to the place where he was going. In no case are two stages, or two comings, implied by this word. There is no room for a period of seven years between the going out to MEET the one that is coming and the coming WITH that person as He continues on to His destination.
Seeing, then, how the word MEET is used in the Scriptures, we understand that when Christ comes, believers will be “caught up . . . to meet the Lord in the air”: and from there they will descend “with Him.” So, the fact that the Lord will come WITH His saints (after they rise to meet Him) does not in any way require two separate second comings of Christ. As Wilbur Smith writes in Tribulation or Rapture – Which? “That theory must be deliberately read into the passage. We might go through all the writers of the New Testament and we would still fail to discover any indication of the so-called “two stages” of our Lord’s coming.”
One final New Testament reference remains to be considered in which we read of Christ’s coming with the saints. Paul exhorted the Thessalonians: And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, 13 so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13).
We need only to notice this passage briefly, for it is doubtful if any would attempt to use this verse as a proof text for the idea of a coming FOR the saints as contrasted to a coming WITH the saints at a later date. There are several reasons for this. The word that is translated COMING in this verse is PAROUSIA – a word which the Pre-Tribulationists commonly say refers to a “secret” rapture – a coming FOR the saints – whereas in this verse we read of His coming (PAROUSIA) “With all the saints.” Instead of teaching two second comings of Christ, if anything, this verse would indicate that the PAROUSIA is the coming of Christ WITH His saints.
Paul is obviously not speaking of a coming of Christ WITH all the saints as contrasted to an earlier coming FOR the saints, for if there was to be an earlier coming, why would he put stress on their being established in holiness at the coming of Christ WITH all His saints? Surely he would have mentioned the earlier coming if any such existed.
The meaning intended in this passage is simply that Paul desired the Thessalonians to be established in the faith and be found without blame at the Second Coming along with all the other saints, those at Corinth, Colossae, Ephesus and all other believers everywhere.