The question is simple. Is there just one scripture that would suggest that Christ could return BEFORE Daniel’s Seventieth Week even begins? In my last post I showed how Christ’s return is clearly AFTER the Great Tribulation. As promised, the following will be a critique of some scriptures that are attempted to show that Christ could return before the Great Tribulation.
One of the tenets of Dispensationalism is an "any-moment" coming of the LORD Jesus. The idea that is stated but is never proved is that Christ could return at any moment. What we saw clearly demonstrated in the last post was that Christ’s coming happens after the Great Tribulation. So Christ’s coming, according to these scriptural passages, could not happen at any moment, but will be preceded by certain signs and will happen at the time appointed by the Father. Let’s look at the first passage that is oft quoted to try to show that Christ could return at any moment.
Matthew 24:36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
Dispensationalists quote this verse so often to try to show that Christ could come at any moment. But the passage does not say that Christ could come at any moment. If the verse is not pulled out of context, we will see that the surrounding verses say the exact opposite of this. First of all, let’s remember that Jesus has just finished explaining to the disciples privately that His coming will happen AFTER the great tribulation, Matthew 24:4-31. So He is still speaking about the same subject, His glorious return with His holy angels. Here is the verse in its proper context.
Matthew 24:32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. 35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. 36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
Do you see what Christ is actually saying? Far from saying that His return could be "at any moment", He is clearly expounding on the facts of what He has already told them in the order of events. Look at the fig tree and learn a lesson. When the leaves appear, you know that it is a sign for what is to come. In the same way, when you see the sign (the abomination of desolation), you know that my coming is near even at the door. But, of the exact day and hour, no man knows that. But Christ IS saying that we can know the times and the seasons. We will know the signs that precede His coming, but of the exact day or hour that He arrives, we can’t know that.
Another statement that I hear so frequently is actually a skewing of a very well known passage. The statement is as follows. "The rapture is the blessed hope of the church." This statement appears nowhere in scripture. First off, as we know, the word "rapture" does not appear in the Bible even once. So when someone makes a dogmatic statement with the word "rapture" in it, a couple of red flags should go up in our minds. Secondly, the passage in question is being severely misrepresented here. Let’s look at the actual passage.
Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
Notice that the blessed hope is the glorious appearing of Christ. We know that the glorious appearing of Christ when He comes with His holy angels happens after the great tribulation when He come to take vengeance on them that know not God, II Thess. 1:6-10. The coming that the church is looking forward to is that glorious appearing that happens after the great tribulation.
Another thing Dispensationalists do is try to divided Christ’s second coming up into a two part coming. They concede that Christ will come at the end of the great tribulation, but they insist that many passages apply only to a coming that will happen before Daniel’s seventieth week. They try to cite differences in certain passages of the Bible to show that Christ’s second coming must be in two different phases, sort of like a second and third coming. The first phase (they insist) will be where Christ descends to the air, catches away all the saints, goes back to heaven (don’t ask me how this can be a coming) then later on Christ will come all the way down to earth to stay for the Millennial reign. Here are a couple of statements that I hear quite frequently to try to show that Christ’s coming is in two parts.
"At the rapture, Christ comes FOR the saints, but at the second coming, Christ comes WITH the saints."
First off, again, the word "rapture" does not appear in the Bible. Secondly, this is a severe misunderstanding of the classic rapture passage itself. If we examine the rapture passage once again, we will see that Christ is not coming FOR the saints at the rapture, but is actually coming WITH the saints. Let’s read the passage again.
I Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 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. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Christ is coming WITH the saints to the earth in this passage. Nowhere does it state that His destination is heaven. He is coming from heaven to earth. The misunderstanding happens when people insert phrases that are simply not here. Some will say that we meet the LORD and go to heaven to be with Him. That’s not what the passage says. The clouds are the meeting place, but the saints do not remain there. We are to be with the LORD wherever He is. After His coming, where will He be? Heaven? No, after His coming, He will be here on the earth. But remember in this very epistle, Paul has already been writing about the coming of Christ. He has mentioned it three times already. Let’s look at those passage to gain insight as to what He was writing about.
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.
2:19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?
3:13 To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
So we already have this backdrop in place before we come to chapter 4. The Apostle Paul has revealed to us that the LORD Jesus is coming from heaven, the church’s hope is being in the presence of the LORD Jesus, and the LORD Jesus comes WITH the saints. There is absolutely no mention of the LORD Jesus coming FOR the saints, only WITH the saints. In fact, no such passage of "coming FOR the saints" exists in the entire Bible. This rapture passage is really an explanation of exactly how He comes WITH the saints. Here’s a brief little word study.
The word meet used in 4:17 is Strong’s #529, apantesis. It has the idea of greeting someone and accompanying them on their way to wherever they are going. It occurs four times in the Bible. In Matthew 25:1, 6, the bridegroom is on His way to a wedding feast. The five wise virgins arise, greet Him, and accompany Him on the way to His final destination. In Acts 28:15, the Christians who were living in Rome, came to the outskirts of Rome to accompany Paul into Rome. They met Paul with the purpose of escorting him into the city on his much awaited arrival. It will be the same for the saints who remain here on the earth when Christ comes. We will be caught up to greet Him in the clouds in order that we might escort Him to His destination, which is here on the earth. When the brothers met Paul on the outskirts of Rome, Paul did not turn around and go back somewhere for any length of time. He continued on to his destination with those who had met him to accompany him. It will be the same with Christ’s second coming. Christ will not turn around and go back to heaven when we meet Him in the clouds. He will continue on to His destination with those who had met Him to accompany Him.
Another phrase that I hear is this. "At the rapture, Christ comes in the air, but at the second coming, Christ comes down to the Mount of Olives and His feet touch the earth."
Again, the word "rapture" does not appear in the Bible. Second, the passage in I Thessalonians does not use the phrase "comes in the air", but rather the meeting place of Christ with the saints as He is descending is the air. Living saints along with freshly resurrected saints will have the privilege of meeting the LORD in the air, but will not remain there. We will ever be with the LORD wherever He is. And third, this is a misunderstanding of Zechariah 14 and the concept of Parousia.
Here is a brief summary of how Zechariah 14 is taken out of context. Christ’s return is shown plainly in Zechariah 12 with the repentance of Israel. At Zechariah 14, Christ is already present on the earth. Zechariah 14:3-4 does not say that the LORD descends, touches down, or even returns. Instead, because the LORD is already back and present on the earth, the passage says "Then shall the LORD go forth and fight". He does not descend to the Mount of Olives, He goes forth to it, as in, walks over to it. Then it splits in half.
Also, Parousia is a noun. It doesn’t refer to the physical movement of the LORD Jesus from heaven to earth. It means presence, as in physical presence here on the earth. It is an event, like a decathlon. Many things will happen at His coming (physical presence on the earth). It won’t all happen the moment He arrives. When He arrives, there will be certain events that will happen immediately, other events will happen progressively as He asserts His authority as the King of kings and LORD of lords. Parousia is not a verb.
To summarize this section, there really is no way to divide up Christ’s second coming into two phases. I’ve debated with a good many people and the result is the same. There is no justification for this in scripture. There will be one glorious advent of Christ following the great tribulation at which time He will catch up the saints to be with Himself, and then pour out His wrath on the ungodly.
In my next eschatology post, I’ll go over how a couple of different teachers tried to teach imminency in the classes I was in. No, I didn’t start an argument, I was actually trying to learn.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman