Chapter 1: General Examination of the Two-Stage Theory
Chapter 2. The Olivet Prophecy, Jewish Or Christian?
Chapter 3: The Ascension Of The Church Militant an Aspect Of The Rapture
Chapter 4: "The Day Of Christ" Is "The Day Of The Lord."
Chapter 5: Christ's Second Coming: Post-Tribulation
Chapter 6: Taken Out Of The Way
Chapter 7: Does Sovereign Grace Exempt From Tribulation?
Chapter 8: The Letters To The Seven Churches.
Chapter 9: Some General Difficulties Met
A Second Edition of Our Lord Cometh having been requested, the whole has been carefully revised and articles added on important phases of this momentous subject. This has necessitated some slight re-arrangement of the book in order to avoid undue repetition.
The Scripture references are from the Authorized or Revised Version of the English Bible: mostly from the Revised, on account of its greater uniformity in translating keywords.
Wm. J. Rowland
THE theory of the two-stage coming of the Lord is indeed very dear to the hearts of many of God’s people, who feel that if their belief in a secret, any moment rapture of the church were taken from them, the value and power as well as the joy of the Blessed Hope would be lost. This, however, was not the view of Messrs. Geo. Muller, Jas. Wright, Horatius Bonar, D. D., and others like Robert Chapman, Dr. Bergin and Dan Crawford, who have been used to carry the gospel to the dark places of the earth, and whose works do follow them; and my own experience, as one who held the two-stage theory for about twenty years, is that the hope of the second coming is to me brighter and clearer, as prophesied events are seen to be steadily moving toward His appearing. By this I do not mean that we have in Scripture a detailed prophetic history running from our Lord’s first coming to His second coming, but that Scripture does very clearly foretell the general marks of the age and also delineates certain specific events, some now fulfilled and some still future, to precede the Lord’s return. The idea that the church has been for 1,900 years expecting an any-moment coming, that may still be today or many years hence, is vague and unsatisfying. It has given room for the Lord’s enemies to say "Where is the promise of His coming?" and, since some have asserted that "the church’s hope waits on no sign," there is, in this theory, no relief, until the longed-for moment arrives. I write sympathetically; for I write for those whom I love in truth. Every prophesied event for this age, connected with the Jews or Gentiles or the church of God, precludes the thought that the church at Pentecost expected an any-moment coming, and if we expect what they could not expect, our hope is different from theirs. The Lord foretold the Coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, with the subsequent witness; He said, "Before governors and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles"—His disciples were to be His witnesses from Jerusalem to the uttermost part of the earth. (Has this yet been reached?) Peter was to be martyred as an old man; Jerusalem and the temple were to be destroyed; apostasy would rise and spread; the leaven would work in the meal until the whole was leavened. These and other prophesied events forbid the thought that the church at Pentecost was looking for Christ to come without intervening events. Yea, the very Paschal discourse declares that "the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service" (John 16:2) (thus foretelling the death of apostles before Christ’s coming), and contains a program needing time for fulfillment, just as surely as Matthew 24 and Luke 21; "These things must needs come to pass first, but the end is not immediately" (Luke 21:9, R. V.). Christ has Himself warned us, "Take heed that ye be not led astray; for many shall come in my name, saying, I am He, and, The time is at hand. Go ye not after them" (ver. 8).
The Lord’s own words are, "After a long time, the Lord of those servants cometh." After many years of careful study I am convinced that there is no Scripture statement that the Lord is coming secretly for His church; or that there will be a period of years between His coming for, and with, His saints; or that He may come at any moment, or before the reign of Antichrist and the unequalled tribulation.
If we state abundantly in our writings and preaching that which Holy Scripture nowhere states, we are building on a sandy foundation. It has been said that the teaching against which we protest is the general teaching of Scripture; but how can doctrine be according to the whole trend of Scripture when its advocates cannot (when asked) show it clearly even in one verse?
All foundation doctrine of Scripture is abundantly stated, and could be taught by us in the very words of Holy writ, without human addition or explanation. Why could not this doctrine be so declared? The true answer is that it rests only upon inferences and theories of men! e.g. I have been told: "If I held your theory it would make me miserable and would unfit me for service, and that is enough to show me that it is not true." But, firstly, it can be replied, "If you have never held the view we hold, you cannot know how it would make you feel." Secondly, who is to judge the value of truth by his imagination of the effects it ought to have, or would have, on his mind? Is our happy frame of mind the great test of truth? Was not our Lord Himself the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief? Did He not even say, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted"? Did the Old Testament prophecies always give a happy feeling as evidencing their truth? Did not Jeremiah, Daniel and John become as dead men, under the weight of prophetic truth, divinely revealed? And while they found the little book sweet to their taste, yet it brought an inward bitterness, for it brought them into collision with the doctrines of men. Even so it is now, in degree, with those who receive from God’s Book these precious instructions.
All the prophets foretold a glorious hope for the redeemed; but all foretold the sorrow that should come first.
The "Jewish" Theory.
This teaching against which we protest has, we believe, caused its adherents to reject the Plain meaning of clear Scripture statements.
It has led some to reject, for their own guidance, the teaching of our Lord in Matthew as being, they say, for the Jews and not directly for the church; a conclusion that would deprive us of the true value of the fourfold Gospel of Christ, for Matthew cannot be separated from Mark, Luke and John.
It has led to intimations that need the addition of words not found in the text, e.g. "My Jewish brethren" in Matthew 25; enough in itself surely to discount for ever the Jewish theory.
The last plain command in Matthew 28 is often relegated to a past or future dispensation. It virtually, to many people, makes Paul the church’s foundation instead of Christ. Neither is their Paul the Paul of Scripture, but the product of their own distortion. Is not this the very thing of which the apostle Peter warns us in his second epistle? (2 Pet. 3:16). It has even been questioned by professed teachers whether our Lord preached a full gospel, or even preached the gospel at all.
It has led to extravagant dividing of Scripture under the plea of "rightly dividing," but the very words warn us against wrongly dividing, and of putting asunder truth that God has joined together. One terrible result of this ultra-dispensational teaching has been the "dividing" of many saints of God, the fearful consequences of which have spread even to the far-distant mission field.
The Gospel of Christ-Only One.
Are there three Gospels or one? Did Paul preach the very same Gospel as the Lord and all the other Apostles? or did he receive a new Gospel, and a new revelation as the church’s hope?
In Luke 4:18-21, at the beginning of His public ministry, our Lord declared that, in accordance with Isaiah 61:1, 2, He was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit: to preach the gospel to the poor ... to preach deliverance . . . to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. In Luke 20:1, at the end of His ministry, His enemies found Him in the temple "preaching the gospel." His earliest recorded discourse is probably that to Nicodemus in John 3, before John the Baptist was delivered up. We have seen from Scripture that Christ did really preach the gospel. What gospel then did He preach? He surely only preached one gospel.
First of all we find that He preached the gospel of God’s grace to a ruined people; ruined by the fall; and needing nothing short of new birth. In Paul’s words we need to be "Created anew in Christ Jesus." Our Lord taught Nicodemus (what as the teacher of Israel he should have known) that only birth from above would bring him into the "kingdom of God." In Paul’s words, "They are not all Israel which are of Israel"(* See Rom. 9:6-8). Christ taught that "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."
Is this not the Gospel of the grace of God? Eternal life by faith in the crucified Redeemer; in verse 18, No condemnation to those who believe. Yea, all the truth of the gospel as epitomized in Romans, chapters 1-8 is here in John 3 Eternal life—"Ye must be born again." Eternal love— "For God so loved." Eternal light— "Light is come into the world." Can any deny that this chapter is the gospel of the grace of God? Yet it is also the gospel of the kingdom, for it tells us the only way of entrance to God’s kingdom. It is distinctly stated that our Lord "preached the gospel of the kingdom" (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; and Luke 4:43): and He declared this to be the gospel His disciples were to preach in the whole world, for a testimony unto all the Nations (Matt. 24:14). Yet is it not indisputably clear that our Lord preached the gospel of the grace of God to Nicodemus, and in Matthew 11:28; Luke 7 and 15? Yes, truly, Christ preached the gospel; not two gospels but one.
The Gospel Paul Preached The Same.
Paul was converted after he had "persecuted the church of God" (1 Cor. 15:9; Gal. 1:13; Phil. 3:6). He did not confer with those who were apostles before him, but went to Arabia, and "far hence" preaching to "Jews and Gentiles" (Acts 20:21). After fourteen years or more he conferred at the council in Jerusalem (Acts 15; Gal. 2) with those who were apostles before him, and the perfect agreement of their teaching was declared.
In 1 Corinthians 15:3-11, after telling us the gospel he had preached, how that Christ died ... was buried ... and raised according to the Scripture, he names the other apostles and early witnesses and says, "Whether it were I or they, so we preach and so ye believed" (ver. 2). Could words be found to put it plainer? Would he have pronounced accursed, any one, either man or angel, who preached any other gospel, if the other apostles had not yet received the gospel of the grace of God? If Paul received a new gospel, then the church must have had another before his day, and as he did not confer with the other apostles until about seventeen years after his conversion, it would have meant two gospels being preached. Surely the very statement of such a thing refutes the theory.
In Acts 20:24 we read, "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the Grace of God": but lest this should be misconstrued he continues: "And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I went about preaching the Kingdom shall see my face no more" (ver. 25).
Acts 20:24 is the only place where the expression "Gospel of the grace of God" occurs. Why then is it made the plea for assuming another gospel in the face of the fact that many times in Acts, Paul says he "Preached the things concerning the Kingdom of God" and that many other expressions, viz. "Gospel of the glory of the blessed God ...Gospel of peace," "Gospel of God," "Gospel of Christ," "Gospel of His Son," "Gospel of your salvation," are used to set forth the one eternal glad message in its many phases of beauty and excellence.
In, Acts 8:12 (see R.V. and Newberry, also Englishman’s Greek New Testament) we read of a Spirit-filled preacher, "but when they believed Philip preaching the good tidings concerning the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women." Surely this is a clear statement that Philip preached (euaggelizomeno) the Gospel of the Kingdom, and by it souls were added to the church. Later in the same chapter, the same Philip, guided by the same Spirit, opened his mouth and preached "Jesus" from Isaiah 53, and the eunuch was saved.
These facts cut away the very foundation of the theory that requires and teaches that, whereas the Gospel of the kingdom has been preached in the past, the gospel of the grace of God is for the present dispensation, and that after the Church has been taken up, the gospel of the kingdom will again be preached. Since it is one and the same gospel, that assertion of distinctions loses all weight. Grace and truth came (not firstly by Paul) but by Jesus Christ, and Paul himself declares with mighty emphasis to Timothy (1 Tim. 6:2-4): "These things teach and exhort. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ.... he is proud, knowing nothing." Surely the "Words of Grace which proceeded out of His mouth" (Luke 4:22) were exactly equivalent to the "Gospel of Grace" as declared by Paul. "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard."
The whole gospel preached by Paul can be found in the words of Christ.
The Secret Rapture Theory Contradicts Plain Scriptures.
Psalm 110:1 states that "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool," and continues clearly to show that Christ’s session of waiting ends only when He comes to "put forth the rod of His strength" and to rule in the midst of His enemies (ver. 2).
To this agree the words of the Holy Spirit through Peter (Acts 3:21), "Even Jesus: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, whereof God spake by the mouth of His holy prophets…." Scripture says that Christ will sit at God’s right hand until it is time for Him to put His feet upon His foes; but the theory of the two-stage coming teaches that He will leave that throne (which would be in opposition to Jehovah’s will expressed in Ps. 110:1) at least seven years before the appointed time, and that Antichrist, His greatest earthly foe, will arise after He has so come forth. Acts 3:21 declares that the times of restoration follow His coming, but this theory says it is then the great tribulation will come.
The apostles and elders of the church (including Paul) were in perfect agreement at the council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:14), when James said "Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His Name, and to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up." Can words be plainer than this? Is it not a clear and simple statement, taught by inspired apostles, and confirmed as the teaching of inspired prophets, that after this "people for His Name" has been gathered from among the Gentiles, Israel’s restoration is to take place? Is not this very different from saying that the period of their worst tribulation is then about to come upon them?
Romans 11:25-27 says, "that blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written: There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins."
Here again the gathering of the "Fulness of the Gentiles" will be followed by the conversion and forgiveness of Israel, and not by the tribulation.
Plain Deductions Lead Us to the Same Conclusions,
e.g. in Matthew 28 our Lord said "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations . . . and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age." This word assures us, therefore, that the Spirit of Christ will be with the church in her witness to the Nations until the end of the age; it follows that the Holy Spirit cannot be "taken out of the way" before the end of the age, and the church will not be removed until the end of the age, but is to be left on earth until then, not with a different gospel, but "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." It is therefore taught in the final command of our only Lord and Teacher, that the same church will preach the same gospel, in the power of the Holy Spirit, all the days even unto the end of the age. The Lord Himself defines the end of the age as the "Harvest" when He Will send forth His angels to gather the tares and wheat, i.e. true and false professors of the Name of Jesus.
"Let both grow together until the harvest" precludes the taking of the true church, years before the tares are reaped.
The Two-Stage Theory Duplicates Many Things.
Paul says the bodies of all the saints will be changed "In a moment [not any moment], in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, for the trumpet shall sound, etc." Many attempts have been made to prove that this last trump is not the last trump spoken of in the only series of prophetic trumpets in Holy Scripture, but whether it be explained away as the Roman or Greek army trumpet, or the silver or ram’s horn trumpet, it still remains that if this last trumpet is not the last trumpet, but seven are to sound after it, then it follows that there are two last trumpets, or that the trumpet here spoken of by the inspired apostle as the last is not the last. The thought that the Book of Revelation was written years after the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians presents no difficulty, inasmuch as Paul was a prophet.
We are asked to believe that in the New Testament there are two gospels or more; two distinct comings with years between (the advocates are not yet agreed whether it will be 3-1/2 years or 7 or even 40 years); two first resurrections, and two ends of the age. I have even heard it stated that: "The eternal gospel is not a gospel, for we are told there is no gospel in it"; and that "it is not eternal, because it will only be proclaimed for a little while." People are said to be eternally saved and made heirs of the kingdom because they have been kind to the Jewish brethren, or because they refuse the mark of the beast. Can anything be more disastrous than these false interpretations which undermine the very foundations of the gospel? Will any one ever be saved except by the grace of God through the merit of the precious blood of Christ?
Saving faith is always shown by works. Because they were saved by faith, Daniel and his friends braved the tyrant’s torture. Because the sheep of Christ are saved by grace through faith, they do of necessity show it in kindness to each other for Christ’s sake.
"In that ye have ministered to the saints and do minister" (Heb. 6:10).
No Resurrection of the Saints before the FIRST.
God teaches us in 1 Corinthians 15 that the departed saints are to be raised at Christ’s coming: "They that are Christ’s at His coming." In Revelation 20:5, 6, we are told of a resurrection that is called in Scripture the first resurrection. "This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection." But again, this is explained away with a zeal that causes deep regret. This first resurrection is not to be understood in all simplicity as being the first resurrection, but as a part of the first resurrection. Is this because the verses include those "which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands"? If this is really the first resurrection, there cannot be a resurrection seven years or more before it, and as this first resurrection includes those who have suffered under Antichrist, it proves that the first resurrection comes after the tribulation, and that there is none before it. 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4, therefore, must refer to this same first resurrection and not to a resurrection that precedes the first resurrection.
No Resurrection before the Last Day of this Age.
Our Lord has taught us in John 6 that "This is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day (ver. 39), and this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (ver. 40).
"No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day" (ver. 44).
"Whose, eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (ver. 54).
Four times in this one discourse our Lord has plainly told us that the resurrection of the redeemed will be at the last day. In Revelation 20 we see that those who have part in the first resurrection will live and reign with Christ the 1,000 years; therefore, this last day must be the last day of this age. The order of these verses is very instructive; beginning with the giving of the church by the Father to the Son; then the seeing and believing for ourselves; then the fact of Divine operation having drawn us to Christ; then the Lord becoming our satisfying portion.
So had Martha been instructed, for she confessed, "I know that he (Lazarus) shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
It is impossible that any future revelation given to Paul disagrees with this tremendous fact. Paul, in Acts 24:15, declares that the Jews allowed that there should be a resurrection both of the just and the unjust, thus showing that Old Testament teaching was clear on the subject even to them. Daniel 12:2 connects the resurrection from the "dust of the earth" with the glorification of the redeemed in heavenly glory, when they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. Their portion being "eternal life" and eternal heavenly glory.
The Church’s and Israel’s Victory Linked.
Paul connects the saints’ resurrection with the time of Israel’s forgiveness: the fulfillment of Isaiah 25 (see specially ver. 8), "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of His people shall He take away from off all the earth; for the Lord hath spoken it." Shall we believe that the period of greatest tribulation will immediately follow this? Our Lord said of the tribulation that "Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved." Shall we be asked to believe that it will come and consume its myriad’s, after death is swallowed up in victory?
Paul says, "So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory." This saying is to be found in Isaiah 25:8, in a chapter which speaks distinctly of Israel’s restoration and of the veil removed from the nations. Shall we say it does not come to pass then, but that a period of tribulation and delusion for Israel and the nations must be expected instead? Again I ask, shall death swallow up its myriad of saints after it has itself been swallowed up in victory, the victory given us by our Lord Jesus Christ? (1 Cor. 15).
The Coming "For" and "With."
Scripture declares plainly an interval of 1,000 years between the two resurrections, but no Scripture can be cited as stating a period of years between His coming for and with His saints. It is suggested that He cannot come with us unless He has previously come for us, and that therefore, the passages referring to His coming with us must be speaking of a different event; but even if this were true, it would not prove an interval of years: it could all be on "one day which is known unto the Lord" (Zech. 14).
The chief passage usually cited as if it spoke of a coming of the Lord for His church in contrast to other Scriptures telling of His coming with us, is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. But the 14th verse of this very passage precludes any such distinction by stating it to be a coming with us. "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." Speaking as he is to the living saints concerning the departed ones, the apostle, when he says "them also" must mean them as well as ourselves; thus teaching here that when our Lord comes, all the saints, both the living and the sleeping ones, "will God bring with Christ." His next two verses are written expressly to show how this will be, for, says the apostle, both will be caught up together to meet Him. Thus He comes for us and with us at one second coming and not at two distinct comings separated by any period of years.
"Will God Bring with Him."
These divine words are explicit. They rebuke at the very outset, any attempt to interpret this Scripture as a coming for His saints in presumed contrast to His coming with them. Concerning love of the brethren, Paul says they needed none to write unto them (ch. 4:9), nor concerning the times and the seasons (ch. 5:1, 2); but in this passage which lies between, he says, "But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that fall asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, which have no hope . . ." They indeed had the blessed hope (ch. 1:10), but ignorance concerning one fact connected therewith was causing them over sorrow: hence this passage was written to them so that true knowledge of that hope as it concerned the dead in Christ, resulting in true comfort, should be their enjoyed portion. The words—even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with Him—were to assure them that all the saints, both the living and the dead, will together be brought with Him; for, says the apostle, both will be caught up to meet Him in the air when the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, and so be forever with Him. Thus they were assured that the sleeping saints will miss nothing of the glory of that day, but that it will be enjoyed by the united church of God.
It has been seriously declared that we are to look for the blessed hope, and not the glorious appearing, and that these words speak of two events, separated by years. But "and" is a conjunction, conjoining "the blessed hope and appearing of the glory" (R.V.) and can no more be divided than we can divide "Our great God and our Saviour" in the same verse, or "God and our Father" (1 Thess. 1:3).
In Ephesians 1:1 we read, "To the saints which are at Ephesus and to the faithful in Christ Jesus." Would any one assert that Paul was addressing two sets of people, and that the "Saints at Ephesus" were one and the "Faithful in Christ Jesus" another?
In 1 Timothy 6:14 we are exhorted to "keep the commandment without spot, without reproach, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ." How could we keep the commandment until the appearing, if we were to be removed from the earth years before the appearing? In 2 Timothy 4:8 Paul says "Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day: and not only to me but also to all them that have loved His appearing."
The Corinthians were commended in 1
Corinthians 1:7 (R.V.), because they "come behind in no gift;
waiting for the revelation (Greek, Apocalypse) of our
Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 1:7 says that proved faith will "be
found unto praise and glory and honour at the revelation
of Jesus Christ." In chapter 1:13 we read "set your hope
perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at
the revelation of Jesus Christ" (R.V.).
The two-stage theory, therefore, offers us a delusive hope alleged to take place before this revelation or appearing; but if our hope is "set perfectly" it will be set on that for which the apostles hoped, viz., the glorious appearing or revelation of our Lord.
The rewards for faithfulness are to be given: at Christ’s manifestation (1 Pet. 5:4, R.V.); at the revelation (1 Pet. 1:7, R.V.); at the appearing (2 Tim. 4:8); at His coming (1 Thess. 2:19), which proves they are not different events, with years intervening.
Inconsistencies of the Pre-Tribulation Theory.
The supposed interval of years between our Lord’s coming for and with His church, involves its adherents in insurmountable difficulties.
It is said that the church may be translated at any moment; the Holy Spirit going up with the church; the world being left to believe the lie, and lawlessness to be allowed to develop without restraint. No more Gospel preaching; the Spirit who alone can regenerate a soul will have gone, and the church (i.e. all believers) gone.
But these same persons proceed to tell us that when the church is taken up, the Jews will go forth and again the gospel of the kingdom will be preached: and the sheep in Matthew 25 are said to be those who have been kind to these Jews. Yea, thousands will be saved.
Such is the teaching, but first it contradicts itself. No more Gospel preaching; Jews preaching Gospel of kingdom! World left to delusion; Thousands saved! How can both be true? If all believers are removed from the world (as removed they all will be) at His coming, then only unbelievers will be left; and if Israel has so terribly failed during this age of the Spirit, how will they evangelize the world when they are in the hour of their own darkest apostasy? Besides, we have seen that the distinction drawn between the Gospel of the kingdom and Gospel of the grace of God, is superficial and unscriptural.
According to this theory, the marriage supper of the Lamb will take place in heaven, and the great tribulation takes place on earth during the end of this very interval; hence our gracious Lord is supposed to have arranged to celebrate the hour of His highest joy in heaven at the very time when "a number that no man can number" are enduring the period of greatest tribulation on earth. Note, too, that they are saints who stand accepted before God, through the cleansing efficacy of the blood of Christ, "the Lamb is their Shepherd" (Rev. 7:9-17, R.V.), and they are described in exactly the same language (ver. 9) as the redeemed around the throne in Revelation 5:9, viz. "Men of every tribe and tongue and people and nation"; Revelation 7:9 reads:
"A great multitude . . . of every nation and of all tribes and peoples and tongues." Revelation 19:2 declares that Babylon has been judged before the time, for the marriage supper of the Lamb comes (19:7).
It is said by these brethren that when the church has been removed, the Lord will resume His dealings with Israel, and the last of Daniel’s 70 heptads will then run its course, ending in the glorious appearing of Israel’s Messiah, to convert and deliver the nation.
Now Antichrist is to "make a covenant with the many for one heptad," therefore he must be alive and in power to make that covenant at the time when the heavenly people are, according to this theory, translated; thus showing that even if it were true that a seven years’ period intervene between the alleged coming for and with the saints, an any-moment coming would be an impossibility. Antichrist will arise from the Grecian portion of the Roman empire (Dan. 8) and rule over all, including Judea, therefore the revival of the old Roman empire in its ten kingdom form must at that time be a fact accomplished, and the making of the covenant for seven years would then coincide with the alleged secret coming.
These and many other considerations lead us to cleave to the plain statements of Holy Scripture, and to believe that: Our Lord is coming again once, and that in manifested glory (Heb. 9:28 and Luke 9:26), personally (Acts 1:2), visibly (Rev. 1:7), gloriously (Titus 2:13), unexpected by the world (Luke 11:35), with His holy angels (2 Thess. 1:7), after the tribulation referred to in Matthew 24:29, to receive His own (John 14), to judge the wicked (2 Thess. 1:8), not secretly (1 Thess. 4:16; Matt. 24:26-27), His coming will be preceded by signs, specially during the last 3-1/2 years of the age (Matt. 24:29, 30; Luke 21:29-31).
He comes forth "when His foes are made the footstool of His feet"; at the "times of restoration of all things" "when the times of the Gentiles have been fulfilled" "after the fulness of the Gentiles be come in"; "immediately after the tribulation"; "to build again the tabernacle of David." Chapter 2 Thessalonians 1:7, where we read that the church of which Paul and the Thessalonians form a part, will get rest from "persecution and tribulation" (ver, 4), "when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels inflaming fire taking vengeance" (ver, 7).
Tribulation is Not Wrath.
But we are often told, Surely the Lord would not let the saints of this dispensation go through the great tribulation, for there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. The church cannot endure this period of wrath. Why cannot the church suffer as much for Christ as those who are supposed to be in a place of lesser light and privilege? Is it deemed right that the very bride of Christ should be deprived of the privilege of witnessing for her Lord in the days of Antichrist when the adorable Name by which she is called is most blasphemed? Tribulation is not strange to the people of God, and it is specially noticeable that in the Paschal discourse, after saying, "Let not your heart be troubled," our Lord declares, "In the world ye shall have tribulation." Paul says, "We glory in tribulation," and "through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom."
We all naturally shrink from suffering. Few have learned to "count it all joy when ye fall into divers trials," or to "glory in tribulation also," but if times of persecution come because of the Word, it will not be true, I trust, of the true children of God, "straightway they stumbled." Many will find, like Daniel of old, a wonderful presence and power both to sustain and deliver. Every one knows without me laboring to prove it, that tribulation is not the same thing as condemnation or wrath.
2 Thessalonians 2:7.
One of the chief arguments used against the belief we hold is that in 2 Thessalonians 2 we read, "He who now letteth will let until he be taken out of the way, and then shall be revealed that lawless one." It is frequently alleged that "He that letteth" is the Holy Spirit who rises with the church and leaves lawlessness to develop unhindered.
This allegation contradicts Matthew 28:20, where Christ promised to be with His church in her witness to the nations until the end of the age. Neither the Spirit of Christ nor the church will therefore be removed before the end of the age—the harvest.
(Scripture cannot be broken.) It also conflicts with plain Scriptures like Joel and Revelation 11, which latter tells of two Spirit-filled men, "sons of oil," witnessing in power against Antichrist’s delusions.
The Restrainer of Lawlessness.
Truly, the Restrainer of lawlessness is God. But the words under discussion are, "until he be taken out of the way." Is a Divine person to be "taken out of the way"? Is such language used anywhere in Scripture of the Holy Spirit? No! It is within the power of any intelligent Bible student to look up the actual Greek words used, and to find their simple and universal meaning. "Ek"out of, "mesou" the midst, "genetai"to become. Genetai, ginomai and its cognate words, generation, genesis, genos, offspring, etc., indicate "bringing to the birth," and, therefore, could not possibly refer to the Holy Spirit. The Lord is restraining the leavening process of lawlessness, and will continue so to do, until out of the midst it arises as a fully ripe system with the Antichrist as its head. The secret of lawlessness will thus give place to the revelation of lawlessness.
Mr. B. W. Newton shows (Notes on Greek of Rom. 1, page 89, and Prospects of the Ten Kingdoms, 2nd Edition, pages 290-291) that in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 there is no thought of "removal" out of the midst implied in ek mesou, nor does any word in the context demand it.
Dr. Strong’s Concordance confirms Pastor J. Hunt Lynn’s statement that "genetai" is connected with birth, and could not, therefore, refer to the Holy Spirit (see Strong’s Concordance, 1079). Dr. Strong connects it with 1074, 1078, birth, genesis, genea, also with "genos" offspring, from "ginomai" 1096, "a prolonged and middle form of a primary verb" to cause to be "generate," reflex "to become," "to come into being." The only occurrences of the English word "birth" in the New Testament are as follow:—
"And as He passed by He saw a man blind from his birth" (John 9:1; Gk. genete).
"The birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise" (Matt. 1:18; genesis).
"And many shall rejoice at His birth" (Luke 1:14; Gk. genesei).
In vain does any one read into this verse the removal of the church, for the church is not even mentioned. Neither can we plead for the words, "taken" and "way," for there is nothing equivalent to them in the Greek of the text.
In Dr. Young’s Analytical Concordance he shows that in the Authorized Version, mesou is translated "midst" 37 times; "among" 6 times; "in the midst" 4 times. Ginomai is mostly "be" or "become," and this Dr. Young always gives as the literal meaning of the word.
Is often quoted as proof that the church will be removed to heaven before the tribulation. Firstly, it is claimed by such writers that the letters to the seven churches (Rev. 2 and 3) are a prophetic history of the church; that we are now in the Laodicean period; that the other letters have had a wonderful fulfillment during the past 1,900 years; and that the Lord will come during this said Laodicean period. If this be so, then it breaks in at once on the any-moment theory; for, if our Lord, in these seven letters, prophesied through the apostle John, the whole course of Christendom; the rise of Clericalism, the development of Romanism; the Protestant reformation; the turning of a remnant to the Name and the Word, occurring about one hundred years ago; and now the widespread blindness and self-satisfied worldliness of the professing church; if He foretold all these things during John’s lifetime, then they were sure of fulfillment though requiring centuries, for the Word of Christ cannot be broken.
If, therefore, we are told that the church, when rightly instructed, has expected Christ to come at any moment, for the last 1,900 years, and that "between us and His return to receive His bride there is nothing; no event that must transpire; not a sheet of tissue-paper placed between us and His return" (*From The Coming Bridegroom and the Waiting Bride, by Ritchie, of Kilmarnock.)—then we reply, How can any one teach such things, in the face of this alleged prophetic program of the age? or of the 1,900 years of waiting that have already passed? Mr. J. Ritchie has himself written an exposition of Revelation for young people, in which he teaches about these seven stages. How then can he logically talk of an any-moment coming being what the Lord set before the church in John 14 and Acts 1:2? specially when he admitted long ago in the question column of the Believer’s Magazine that Acts 1:2, primarily referred to Christ’s coming to the earth, when His feet shall touch Mount Olivet?
I personally reject this exposition of the seven letters, but have simply sought to show that, if true, it refutes the "any-moment" theory of those who hold it.
The Whole Prophetic Program Precluded the Idea of an Any-Moment Coming.
Peter was to be martyred as an old man (John 21:18-19, and 2 Pet. 1:14); Jerusalem was to be destroyed and Israel scattered (Luke 21:20 and 19:41-44). After Paul’s departure grievous wolves and false teachers would come, and "after a long time" Christ was to come; to say nothing of the events which some assert will take place after the so-called "rapture" of the church.
Can the promise to keep the church in Philadelphia from an hour of universal trial be proved to mean the removal of the church of God from the earth? Do not the same writers continually tell us that "The great tribulation is Jewish"? that it is the "time of Jacob’s trouble, and he shall be saved out of it"? Is not this one of the arguments they use against us? How then can it be the same as "the hour of trial which shall try them that dwell upon the earth"? Again, "to be kept from" is not the same as to be "taken away from."
In John 17, the identical words are used, "Keep them from the evil," but our Lord says in the very same verse, "I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world." The word used is "ek," i.e. from or out of not "apo" away from.
1 Thessalonians 4.
1 Thessalonians 4 is said by some to be the first revelation of the church’s true hope. The circumstances are said to be "so different in every particular" from the coming with His saints.
"Here He comes to the air; there He comes to the earth."
"Here He comes with a shout that is only to be heard by the church; there He is seen and heard by all."
"Here He comes to receive His bride; there He comes to judge the world."
But if Paul was the first to receive instructions concerning the "blessed hope," what about the church before Paul’s conversion? Did not the church which Paul says he "persecuted," have knowledge of the blessed hope before Paul’s day?
What were the other apostles teaching? Paul declares that he received his apostleship direct from the Lord Jesus; that he did not confer with those who were apostles before him, but went away into Arabia, and after seventeen years went up to the council at Jerusalem, where his teaching was approved as being the same as theirs. How could this be if he had received a new gospel and a new hope for the church?
And as to the idea of secrecy alleged to be taught in 1 Thessalonians 4: do the words "shout," "voice of archangel," "trump of God" denote secrecy? Will the redeemed myriad’s in transfigured bodies surround their glorified Lord, in the air, and the world see nothing and know nothing of it? The Lord whose countenance shone as the sun, and whose raiment was white as the light: the Lord whose appearance to Paul, near Damascus, was above the brightness of the noonday sun. Is this to be a secret affair, that the people of the world will find the train rushing on and the Christian engine driver gone, and such like things as are imagined in The Twinkling of an Eye, by Sydney Watson?
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 cannot be Disconnected from Chapter 5:1-11.
In these verses, Christ is spoken of as the Lord seven times, surely indicating that the apostle is speaking about the day of the Lord. And the whole context clearly depicts in the strongest terms, a coming of the Lord in power and great glory. So much so, that if one were requested to quote a verse that set forth our Lord’s coming as being in majesty and glory, the first to come to one’s mind would be that which begins: —
"For the LORD Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God . . ."
In a later part of this book I have taken up more fully the alleged differences between the coming as described in this passage and in other parts of Holy Scripture, with the firm conviction that it is one and the same coming, —one coming—taking place on one day, "one day known unto the Lord" (Zech. 14:7).
Revelation 4 and 5.
As we constantly find in Scripture, Revelation 4 and 5 give the broad outline, later chapters fill in detail. In these chapters we find all the seals opened (chapter 5:5); the saints reigning in heaven and redeemed Israel reigning upon the earth (vs. 9, 10), and in verse 13, "every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea . . . heard I saying, Blessing and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever."
This certainly will not take place before the millennium.
"Be patient therefore brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient, stablish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh" (Jas. 5).
May the patience with which the great Husbandman waits for His harvest, inspire our hearts with that which the inspired apostle Paul calls "patience of hope" (1 Thess. 1).
Two days before our Lord was delivered up to be crucified, He left the temple, after pronouncing woes on the rulers of Israel, and having uttered those memorable words:
"With Jesus in the midst,
We gather round the board;
Though many, we are one in Christ,
One body in the Lord."
"Some from earth, from glory some;
Severed only till He come."
"O blessed hope with
Let not your heart be desolate.
But strong in faith, in patience wait
Until He come."
A remarkable distinction proposed to us by those who would have us divide the second coming of our Lord is that the passage in 1 Thessalonians 4 describes the Day of Christ, but that the Olivet prophecy describes the Day of the LORD—asserting that the day of Christ is nowhere spoken of in the Old Testament but was a special revelation made through the apostle Paul—and to use the words of C. I. Scofield, D. D. (p. 1212; Dr. C.I. Scofield’s Reference Bible). "The day of Christ relates wholly to the reward and blessing of saints at His coming, as day of the Lord is connected with judgment."
When it is averred that we must sharply distinguish between the day of Christ and the day of the Lord, we answer—Why? Is not Christ the Lord? When we read, "Behold the day of the Lord cometh . . . then shall the Lord go forth and fight . . . and His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives ... and the LORD my God shall come and all the saints with Thee" (Zech. 14:1-5), is it not agreed that the Lord whose feet shall stand in that day on Mount Olivet is the Lord Christ? Since the Christ of the New Testament is so emphatically the Messiah of the Old, that we read, "we have found the Messiah which is, being interpreted, Christ," and the Messiah of the Old Testament is decidedly and admittedly Lord, such proposed distinction is shattered by one of the simplest facts of Holy Scripture, namely that "Jesus Christ is Lord." And if Christ is Lord, the day of Christ is the day of the Lord.
In numerous passages of Scripture the day of
the Lord is
Connected with Salvation and Reward,
not only with judgment. "Behold your God shall come with vengeance, your God with a recompence; He will come and save you" (Isa. 35:4). "Behold your God I Behold the Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him: behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him . . ." (Isa. 40:9-10; cf. Acts 2:19-21; Rev. 22:12). That the distinction alleged by Dr. Scofield is unwarranted is proved also by the plain direct statements of the Lord Christ Himself; in which He tells us when He will reward His disciples, e.g. "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of the Father with His angels, and then He shall reward every man according to his works" (Matt. 16:27). This is where the judgment seat of Christ comes in. In direct opposition to the oft-attempted distinctions, we see that in the Olivet prophecy Christ depicts Himself coming as Lord (Matt. 24:42), as rewarding His servants (25:21, 23), as Bridegroom, coming to the marriage (25:1-13), and as Shepherd-King with His flock (25:31-46), whereas in this whole passage from 1 Thessalonians 4:13, which is alleged to set forth the day of Christ as distinct from the day of the Lord, there is no distinctive word of Him as Bridegroom, no word about bride or marriage, nor about Him rewarding His servants (those being in the Olivet prophecy), but the sevenfold emphasis is on His Lordship.
Just as our Lord is spoken of in Scripture by many titles and in many ways, but is always the One same blessed Person, so His day is
Variously Termed in Holy Scripture:
"the day," 1 Corinthians 3:13; Hebrews
10:25, 2 Peter 1:19.
"that day," 2 Timothy 1:18 and 4:8.
"the day of Christ," Philippians 1:10
"the day of Jesus Christ," Philippians 1:6.
"the day of God," 2 Peter 3:12.
"the great day," Jude 6.
"the day of the Lord," 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10.
"the day of our Lord Jesus," 2 Corinthians 1:14.
"the day of our Lord Jesus Christ," 1 Corinthians 1:8.
It is surely worthy of note that the Thessalonian passage which is supposed by some to describe the day of Christ as distinct from the day of the Lord does not even contain either of the phrases that such would recognize as referring to the Day of Christ, but emphasizes His Lordship. Thus it is "the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout . . . we shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air . . . and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
It is His Title LORD
that is seven times repeated in these verses in the whole context (1 Thess. 4:13-5:11), and in a central verse it is the "Day of the Lord" (verse 4).
By dividing the second coming of our Lord into two second comings, placing between His coming for and with His saints a period of years for which they can show no Scripture statement though they are frequently asked for it, the teachers of the modem two-stage coming theory involve themselves in this difficulty (and many others) that they place the day of Christ before the day of Antichrist.
But will the Day of Man follow the Day of Christ?
Will the day of
Christ when "the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a
shout . . ." (which even writers in The
Advent Witness have admitted to be a "war-cry"), leave the
world to go on as if the Lord’s battle shout did not affect or
concern it? The time of Antichrist’s reign will be pre-eminently
"man’s day," when man’s pride, blasphemy, and rebellion will
reach its very apex. Will "the Lord Himself descend from heaven
with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with
the trump of God" and leave His greatest foe to rise and
take possession? Nay Christ is Lord. The day of Christ is the
day of the Lord, when "the Lord Himself shall descend from
heaven with a shout . . . and we shall be caught up in the
clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with
the Lord." The redeemed host, thus translated, will be part of
the Lord’s Host when He smites the Antichrist and his armies,
delivers the remnant of Israel, and sets in Zion the throne of
His kingdom. Thus man’s day will be overwhelmed and extinguished
by the day of the Christ, which is in very deed the day of the
The second coming of our Lord will terminate effectually all tribulation for all God’s saints.
This truth rests upon the plain statements of Scripture. The simple words of our Lord on Mount Olivet, spoken within three days of His death, declare that
the tribulation of those days . . ." (Matt. 24:29),
"But in those days, after that tribulation . . ." (Mark 13:24),
Christ will come to gather His elect people from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. To this agree the words of the Apostle Paul who, speaking of the "persecutions and tribulations" the saints were enduring (verse 4) says:
"Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess. 1:6-8).
Whatever is asserted about Matthew 24 being Jewish, it is certain that no such theory can intrude itself here, for these words were addressed to Gentile believers. They were in need of comfort; and the apostle wrote expressly to comfort them, but he does not in any way suggest a coming of our Lord before His coming in glory. It is agreed on both sides that in all such passages Scripture speaks of corporate hope. Even so, when the apostle says "we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:15), and "knowing that He which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus; and shall present us with you" (2 Cor. 4:14). In the one passage he links himself and fellow-workers with the dead in Christ, and in the other with those who will be alive when Christ comes, simply because all are in very deed the one family of God in heaven and on earth. The apostle’s words here are, "And to you who are troubled, rest with us at the revelation of the Lord Jesus," and explicitly describe it as being "with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, rendering vengeance."
So also does the Apostle Peter teach us. His two epistles were written to "strengthen the brethren." The first deals specially with the sufferings of Christ and His people, and the second with the glories that shall follow. But in writing to those who were "if need be in heaviness through manifold trials," he says:—"that the proof of your faith being more precious than gold that perisheth though it is proved by fire, might be found unto praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ " (1 Pet. 1:7, R.V.).
"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:13).
The fruitfulness, preciousness and reward of tried but triumphant faith (ver. 7), as well as the grace to be brought unto us (ver. 13), will be, according to the Apostles Peter and Paul, at the revelation (Greek: apocalypse) of our Lord Jesus Christ. Neither of them hint at any previous return of our Lord.
This also accords with the teaching of the prophets. In Daniel we read:
"I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High, and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom" (Dan. 7:21, 22).
It does not suffice to say that this passage is Jewish, for whether Jew or Gentile, none can be saints apart from being "born from above." The spared ones of Israel will not be converted to God until Christ destroys Antichrist. Then, and not until then, will they exercise personal faith in Christ. Then, and not until then, will they look unto Him whom they had pierced and be brought to true repentance. They cannot, therefore, be the saints who are spoken of as such so many times in this one chapter and in numerous other passages of God’s book, against whom Antichrist will make war during the last three and a half years of this age. These same persons of whom God says:
"Here is the patience of the saints: Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus" (Rev. 14:12),
are indeed "keeping the faith of Jesus "—and can any keep the faith of Jesus and not be Christian? They are keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus during the time of Antichrist’s rule, and in it are glorifying God, for as He looks upon them He can say with approval: "Here is the Patience of the Saints."
I affirm then, again, that the second coming of our Lord will, according to all the Scriptures (prophets, evangelists and epistles), effectually terminate all tribulation for all God’s people for ever.
The idea that Christ will come and take some of His people to enjoy the bliss of the marriage scenes above and the rewards of the judgment seat of Christ, while other saints are to be left on earth to endure the fiercest persecution for His sake, is nowhere taught in God’s Holy Book.
Does Any Scripture Oppose this Teaching?
A while ago, the Editor of The Indian Christian sent a questionnaire to leading men, in agreement with his views, in Great Britain, North America, Australia and New Zealand. The questions centered around this subject. The third question is:—
"What Scriptures, if any, do you consider definitely teach that the Church will NOT pass through the Great Tribulation? Refs. only."
This is a definite question, and therefore we value it, for truth loves definiteness and precision. We like to come to grips, for truth has everything to gain and nothing to lose thereby. Mr. Irvine has printed the replies and references given (from Deut. to Rev. 22), and has himself written a preface thereto which I will now quote exactly and in full.
He says: "Under this section a number of helpful remarks are made, and passages of Scripture are given, which should be a comfort to any Christians who dread the unspeakable days of the Great Tribulation, more than—as well they may—the dark waters of Jordan. Whilst no such ‘categorical statement,’ as is suggested by Mr. C. F. Hogg, can be produced—and as he says, none need be expected—many of the passages quoted clearly indicate the relationship that Israel and the world will have with this day of wrath and trouble and distress; and as these passages are, as is true of the whole body of Scripture, uniformly silent with regard to the Church passing through it, surely the fears of those ‘that are Christ’s at His coming’ (Parousia) may well be allayed. In some of our after articles further reassurance on this all-important matter is given. (Ed., I.C.)." (Indian Christian, p. 147. March, 1931.)
What is the result of Mr. Irvine’s investigation according to his own summary of the replies given? First of all, after having examined and printed the testimonies of these leading men in Great Britain, North America, and Australia, he writes:
"No such Categorical Statement… can be Produced and None Need be Expected."
Secondly, he says, "Many of the passages given clearly indicate the relationship that Israel and the world will have with this day of wrath and trouble and distress"—thus recognizing and acknowledging that they deal with something entirely different from the question asked. Thirdly, he asserts the uniform silence of Scripture on the subject in hand; and fourthly, calls upon troubled hearts to rest in this alleged uniform silence of Scripture. If it were true that Scripture is uniformly silent, as to the Church passing through the last three and a half years of God-honoring witness against Antichrist, it could, for that very reason, teach nothing about that of which it is said to be uniformly silent. We see, therefore, that these brethren have no Scripture statement to bring against the teaching we hold.
Some years ago a leader of the Darby party was asked, Can you tell me any verse or verses of Scripture that state either a secret coming, a two-stage coming, or a pretribulation coming? The reply was, "You look for verses of Scripture: we look for principles." But can Scripture principles be taught except by Scripture words? In like manner, a while ago, Dr. Burton printed the following in the Advent Witness:
"An esteemed fellow-student of the Scriptures asks for plain proof of the separate stages of our Lord’s return. This opens up an immensely important line of investigation. Of course there are no verses that state in so many words that there are separate stages" (italics ours).
We welcome such a courteous answer. The subject is indeed of immense importance. It is clear that if Scripture does not state in so many words that there are separate stages it is not stated at all, for that is the only way in which anything could be stated, namely in so many words.
We see, therefore, that no verses of Scripture are to be found that state that the Church will not pass through the last three and a half years of great tribulation, nor that there are separate stages of our Lord’s return.
And in addition to having all these facts against them, teachers of what they are pleased to call the "two-stage coming" inevitably involve themselves in the task of drawing distinctions between the second coming of Christ as foretold in all Scripture beside, and that same teaching as expressed by the Apostle Paul. And this alone does not fully state the case, for having severed Paul’s teaching from the rest of Scripture, they proceed to divide between his first and second epistles to the Thessalonians. The second is allowed to teach the very same second coming as other parts of Scripture, but the first epistle is said to contain an entirely new revelation as the Church’s hope. And even here it is not all the teaching of the epistle on the subject, but a few verses taken apart from their immediate context which follows without a break in chapter 5, which context in chapter 5, they allow to be treating of exactly the same second coming as the rest of Scripture. But these five verses and exhortations are divided off and alleged to be an entirely new revelation. Is this rightly dividing?
Those who assert that specific Church truth is only to be found in Paul’s epistles do thereby convict themselves of adducing, as from Paul’s epistles, ideas which they confessedly cannot find anywhere else in the Word of God.
Was it a Fresh Revelation to Paul?
It is affirmed by many that 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, is the record of an entirely fresh revelation made to and through the Apostle Paul. This is, they claim, the first record of the hope of the Church, and is entirely different from the second coming of Christ spoken of in earlier Scriptures. Now, if this were true, it would effectually take from them all the previous verses of Scripture which they attempt to use against us. Useless for them now to say, Only the Church saw Him go, and only the Church will see Him come (Acts 1:9). And how can they use the very words of 1 Thessalonians 1:10, "waiting for His Son from heaven, even Jesus, which delivereth us from the wrath to come," and say: "This is His coming to the air, as Son of God, but Matthew 24 is His coming to the earth as Son of man." If 1 Thessalonians 4 truly contained the first teaching ever given on the hope of the Church it would follow that the Church at Thessalonica had not, up to that time, the blessed hope; but this fallacy is refuted by the fact that at the very reception of the gospel from the apostle, they had, "turned unto God from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, . . . even Jesus which delivereth us from the wrath to come": and are spoken of by the apostle as being in blessed contrast to "those which have no hope," which proves that they already had it. Moreover, it would follow that, until that time, no Church on earth, neither any of the apostles, not even the apostle Paul himself, had the true hope of the Church until he wrote this first epistle to the Thessalonians. In such case would he have said, "But we would not have you ignorant, brethren," of something never known before in the Church of God? The truth is that concerning love of the brethren they needed not that one wrote unto them. Nor about the times and seasons and unexpectedness to the world of our Lord’s return. These, Paul says, they knew perfectly. But they did need true teaching to correct them as to the part the dead in Christ will have in that day. If the blessed hope was that Christ might come at any moment and we be taken without dying, then all who have died in Christ have missed that. But the blessed hope as here taught is, that "Whether we wake or sleep, we shall live together with Him," and the blessed emphasis throughout the passage is on the word "together." When our Lord comes both we and they, "will God bring with Him," for the resurrection in glory of the sleeping saints, and the change into His image of the living saints will be followed by both being caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. When we see our Lord coming in power and great glory, we shall not have to wait till He reaches the earth, but having been changed into His image, we shall be caught up to meet Him.
coming: Thou art coming,
We shall meet Thee on Thy way."
"A Careful Comparison" Examined.
It inevitably follows that teachers of the two-stage theory are involved in the task of finding distinctions between this passage in Thessalonians and, specially, our Lord’s Olivet Prophecy, which He gave within three days of His death. This, say they, is the coming Bridegroom for the waiting bride, whereas that in Matthew is His coming as Son of man to Israel. But is it not wonderful that the words "Bridegroom," "bride," "marriage," cannot be found in 1 Thessalonians 4, but that our Lord gave a whole parable in the Olivet Prophecy, telling of the Bridegroom coming "and those that were ready went in with Him to the marriage." In this Indian Christian is an article by Algernon Pollock entitled "The Appearing and the Rapture—A Careful Comparison between Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 4." His principal argument is that certain things are mentioned in the one passage and not in the other. In reply it would be sufficient to point out that (a) the Olivet Prophecy was given to answer the direct question as to the signs of Christ’s coming and therefore treats of those signs, whereas 1 Thessalonians 4 was written for the purpose of comforting saints as to the dead in Christ—saints whom, the apostle himself says, knew those other things perfectly, and for that very sufficient reason he did not here write what he says they needed not; (b) Matthew 24 is but part of the Olivet Prophecy, which includes Matthew 25, Mark 13 and Luke 21; and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is but part of the Apostle Paul’s statement concerning the coming of Christ. But although these six verses are often severed from all that follows in the same context, and from the rest of Paul’s teaching in other parts of his writings, not one of the distinctions proposed will stand the test.
"The Appearing and the Rapture."
Whence this word "rapture"? The English word rapture means extreme joy. It has no true connection with the word in I Thessalonians 4:17, which means exactly what the A.V. and R.V. translators have rendered it, namely, to be "caught away" or "caught up," the upward direction being contained in the contextual words, "to meet the Lord in the air." It is no right use of words to change "caught up" into "wrapt away" and "wrapt away" into "rapture", and then to speak of God’s people being "raptured from earth to heaven." The writer says:—
Chapters 8-11 of the epistle to the Romans deal very fully with the subject of election. Speaking of those whom God foreknew, predestinated, called, justified, glorified, Paul says, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. . . ." God’s justified ones for whom Christ died and rose again, are His elect. This Scripture then proceeds to link the elect of Paul’s day with those of the Psalmist’s day by its use of the words: "As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. . . ." The words, "For Thy sake," denote the reason of the sufferings, "as sheep for the slaughter," refer them to God’s flock: "Shall tribulation, or distress . . . or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" describe the nature of such sufferings of God’s elect. While verses 37-39 acclaim the fully assured triumph—"more than conquerors through Him that loved us,"—of all the suffering saints of God.
Chapter 9 goes
on to deal with the very subject of Israel’s relation to the
covenant of God and says, It is "not as though the word of God
has come to nought. For they are not all Israel, which are of
Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they
all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is,
They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the
children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for
the seed." "The purpose of God according to election" is then
illustrated by reference to Isaac and Jacob, both born, not
merely of the flesh, but of promise and of the Spirit. God is
spoken of as "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Jacob," for they
were born again men. But never is He spoken of as the God of
Ishmael or Esau. It is true that God chose the nation Israel for
blessing in the earth and He will completely fulfil all His
gracious promises to them, converting them when Christ comes
again, and making them the chief nation on the earth during the
millennial reign of Messiah. But a man is never one of God’s
elect in the deepest sense of the word simply because he is born
of Abraham according to the flesh. The whole New Testament
affirms this repeatedly, "Think not to say within yourselves, We
have Abraham to our father." In chapter 11:4, the seven thousand
who did not bow the knee to Baal are distinguished from all
others of Israel. They were God’s elect. Again, in verses 5-10,
Scripture carefully states the distinction between the nation
Israel and the elect, both of Paul’s day and Elijah’s day,
uniting such elect ones in the words: "Even so then at this
present time also there is a remnant according to the election
of grace. . . . What then? Israel hath not obtained that which
he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest
were blinded, according as it is written. . . ."
If the elect obtained that which the nation obtained not, it shows that Scripture clearly draws a distinction between the two. Peter also, who heard the Lord speak three times in the Olivet Prophecy alone, of the elect, bids us to "make our calling and election sure," and says: But ye are a chosen (eklektos) generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people. . . ." and that in contrast to the unbelieving Jewish people (1 Pet. 2:7) and also to the unbelieving Gentiles surrounding us (2:12).
This certainly settles who the elect are in the Gospel narratives, and in the Olivet Prophecy. Since only the saints of God both in the Old Testament and New Testament are God’s elect, they are those spoken of in Matthew 24 and Mark 13.
the elect’s sake, whom He hath chosen, He hath shortened the
days. . . ."
"To seduce if possible, even the elect."
"And shall gather together His elect from the uttermost part of the earth, to the uttermost part of heaven." (Mark 13:20, 22, 27; cp. Matt. 24:22, 24.)
The gathering of God’s elect from "the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven" is not the restoration of Israel to Palestine. Palestine is not heaven. It is the "gathering together unto Him," (2 Thess. 2:1) of all God’s redeemed family, "those that have made a covenant with God by sacrifice" (Ps. 50).
earth: from glory some;
Severed only till He come."
I end as I began, by affirming that, according to Holy Scripture, the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the blessed hope of God’s elect, will effectually terminate all tribulation for all God’s saints forever.No Scripture divides the second coming of Christ into two second comings. No Scripture warrants the idea that Antichrist will be able to war against any saints after our Lord Himself has descended from heaven with a shout. Nor that the people of God who have lived between the day of Pentecost and any secret "rapture" will be enjoying the bridal feast above and receiving rich rewards at the bema, while other saints whom they are pleased to term "tribulation saints" are enduring unto death against the Antichrist on earth.
2 Thessalonians 2:7
Much controversy has centered around this passage of Scripture. It is affirmed by many that the Holy Spirit is to be taken away, and that as His divine presence is promised to the Church for ever in the Savior’s words in the Paschal discourse in John 14 it follows as a natural sequence that both the Holy Spirit and the Church will be thus removed from the world, leaving lawlessness to spread unhindered under the Antichrist, the Lawless One. These brethren believe, even as we do, that the Lawless One will receive his death blow at and by the appearing in glory of our glorious Lord, but they use this inference, based, we believe, on a mistranslation and misinterpretation of Holy Scripture, to support the idea of a pretribulation translation of the Church.
(taken) out of
heos genetai ek mesou
until out of (the) midst he be (gone)
8:24: there arose a great tempest in the sea.
8:21: when tribulation or persecution ariseth.
Mark 4:17: when affliction or persecution ariseth.
4:37: there arose a great storm of wind.
Luke 6:48: when the flood arose.
15:14: there arose a mighty famine in that land.
John 3:25: then there arose a question.
Acts 6:1: There arose a murmuring of the Grecians.
6:19: the persecution that arose about Stephen.
20:23: the same time there arose no small stir.
23:7: there arose a dissension.
23:9: there arose a great cry.
23:10: there arose a great dissension.
The Mystery of the Rapture "Behold I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump" (1 Cor. 15:51, R. V.).
These words are often quoted to confirm the ideas that (1) God was herein revealing truth never before known; (2) That truth being, in the words of a recent writer, "The mystery of the rapture"; (3) The words "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," denoting the extreme rapidity with which the Lord will descend to the air, and we ascend to meet Him: such rapidity excluding all possibility of manifested glory and proving it to be a very different event from the Lord’s coming to the earth, which, it is asserted, will take place some years after the "rapture."
A mystery in Scripture is "What is known only to the initiated" (Young’s Analytical Concordance). Even if the Corinthian church, through carnality, needed now to be instructed in this mystery, it did not prove that it was never before revealed, for our brethren themselves strongly hold that it is taught in 1 Thessalonians 4, which was written, they believe, at least five years earlier.
But for the sake of brevity it only needs to be pointed out that the so-called Rapture of the Church is not even Mentioned in the Whole of 1 Corinthians 15, and so cannot be the subject of any new revelation in that chapter. The mystery of 1 Corinthians 15 is that at one specific moment the bodies of all the dead and all the living saints will be changed from mortal to immortal, from corruptible to incorruptible and it is this event that is to take place in a moment. "We shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the Last Trump." This event is specially emphasized here in connection with the last trump, the first resurrection and the fulfilment of Isaiah 25:8; not as a new event separated by years.
"The Mystery of the Church." A word should be said about the "mystery of the church," and here, too, it is remarkable that the above title cannot be found within the covers of the Bible! Ephesians 3 speaks of "the mystery of Christ," that mystery, as explained by the apostle, being: "That the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel," whereof Paul says, "I was made a minister," and this mystery he affirms, "In other generations was not made known unto the sons of men as it hath now been revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit."
Paul is nowhere claiming to be the medium through whom this truth was first revealed to the church, but states emphatically that it was revealed to His holy apostles (plural) and prophets (plural). The same truth was clearly enunciated by the Lord in the well-known words: "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock, one Shepherd" (John 10:16 [See also Matt. 8:10-12 and Luke 8:28-29, R. V.]).
As an apostle of Christ, Paul received his apostleship and all his teaching direct from the Lord, and not from the other apostles, or earlier members of the church, and this he often refers to, e.g. "For I have received of the Lord that which I delivered unto you." "Let such an one consider that the words I write, they are the commandment of the Lord." Such words as "This we say unto you by the word of the Lord" do not, therefore, necessitate the idea of the revelation of truth not known before to the other apostles.
The idea of dividing the first resurrection is a necessary concomitant of the whole system with which it is connected, for having separated the second coming into parts, numerous other divisions follow as a natural sequence. In Matthew 27:51-52, R. V., we read:—
"Behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake; and the rocks were rent; and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep were raised; and coming forth out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered into the holy city and appeared unto many."
These, it is sometimes claimed, were part of the first resurrection, the saints referred to in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4 coming next, afterwards the tribulation saints.
A simple interpretation of the words:—
"This is the first resurrection, blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection," would have saved us from these problems. It has even been said that the verb "is" does not occur in Revelation 20:5, and therefore the word "completes" might be inserted instead. It is perfectly true that, according to very frequent Scripture usage, the verb to be is not written but implied, but the idea that any latitude is allowed for us to supply one word or another according to our theories does not appeal to those who believe in verbal inspiration. In more than sixty instances in the Apocalypse alone the verbs "were," "are," "be," and "is," are implied, and in none of them would the word "completes" possibly fit. In this case it is clear that only one word could be intended, viz., the word (is). A similar instance occurs in the next chapter (21:23) "The lamp thereof (is) the Lamb," and in Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ (is) the same yesterday, today and forever." When, in this book, the thought of completion or its equivalent is intended, it is always written and never simply implied (e.g. "I have found no works of thine fulfilled before my God" (3:2). "Then is finished the mystery of God" (10:7). "When they shall have finished their testimony" (11:7)).
It has been said that "we must not assume without Scripture warrant, that these in Matthew 27 returned immediately to the grave, they may have ascended when their Lord ascended." But though details are repeatedly given in Scripture of the ascension of our Lord, never do we get a hint of any others in bodily form going up with Him. These were visible to those to whom they appeared in Jerusalem and would have been visible had they ascended with Christ. Such a fact—if it were a fact—would not have been passed over in silence by all the New Testament writers. In fact, Peter distinctly says of David that he had not ascended into the heavens. While here on earth our Lord raised people from the dead, of whom the daughter of Jairus, the widow’s son, and Lazarus are examples. In Acts, through His Name, Dorcas was raised and restored to her friends for a further term on earth. Why should any different thought be maintained concerning these others who come between? Lazarus was raised and restored to his sisters only a short time before the death of Christ, yet no one suggests that he ascended when our Lord ascended ten days before Pentecost. His sister’s words still remain true, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." The very way in which the resurrection of the bodies of these saints in Matthew 27 is spoken of in connection with "the earthquake, the rending of rocks and of the veil of the temple," shows it to be one of the series of signs and wonders connected with the greatest event that history could record, viz., the death and resurrection of our Creator Redeemer.
In writing to Timothy, Paul, after exhorting him to "give diligence to present himself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the Word of Truth," and telling him to warn the saints not to strive about words to no profit, utters some severe words concerning two men, Hymenæus and Philetus. These men’s words are said to "eat like a gangrene," are described as "profane babblings," and to "Overthrow the Faith of Some." And what is their error? Here are Paul’s words: " Saying that the (or a) resurrection is past already" (2 Tim. 2:18,R.V.).
From these words it is certain that Paul did not understand Matthew 27:52-53, as describing a resurrection except in the sense that Lazarus and Dorcas were raised as special signs of Christ’s divine mission and of His power over death, and afterwards returned to the grave and saw corruption.
A popular distinction is voiced in the words of J. Charleton Steen, in The Witness, February, 1921. He says:—
"Matthew 24:30 brings us to the second advent, His coming to Mount Olivet. . . . This coming has nothing whatever to do with His coming for His church (1 Thess. 4), but it is His coming with His church in manifested glory (1 Thess. 3:13; 2 Thess. 1:10; Col. 3:4; Matt. 24:36-44.). Note, it is the coming of the Son of man. This title is never found in the church epistles. Some one has said, the church has no more to do with Him as Son of man than the Syrophenician woman had to do with Him as Son of David."
The best reply to this statement is in the Lord’s own words: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you" (John 6:53), and again: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth may in Him have eternal life" (John 3:14-15 R. V.).
To have nothing to do with Him as Son of man is to be eternally lost. As to the usage of the term in the New Testament it is worthy of note that never in the gospel do we read of the apostles calling Him Son of man, so that nothing would be gained if it could be proved that they did not so speak of Him in the epistles.
The evangelists record His words in which He continually called Himself Son of man, but Himself testifies of the apostles, "Ye call Me Master and Lord, and ye say well."
In sovereign grace He used the term (which by its distinct reference to Dan. 7:13 implied His Messiahship), because, for our salvation, He became in fashion as a man, humbling Himself still further and becoming obedient unto the death of the Cross.
In one of the church epistles, written to those who are "Holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling," we read, "What is man that thou art mindful of him, or the Son of man that thou visitest him," and these words quoted from the Psalms seemingly refer to Him, who became a little lower than the angels because of the suffering of death, and is now crowned with glory and honour (Heb. 2).
In Acts 7 the Christian martyr Stephen used the words when he testified "I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God."
In Revelation 1:13 the apostle John says he saw amidst the seven golden candlesticks "One like unto the Son of man," and it was He who addressed the letters to the seven churches.
These are church epistles surely in which are promises of His coming.
Much valuable help may be afforded us by a proper use of Scripture types, when once a true foundation of doctrine has been laid in the right understanding of the plain statements of the Word of God, provided that such types are always interpreted so as to agree with, and never to differ from, such plain statements.
The suggestion that Noah typifies the Jewish remnant going through the tribulation and Enoch of the church being translated some years previously, conflicts with the Scripture use of types, as well as with plain statements of the Word. Peter uses Noah’s deliverance through the flood as typical of the believers’ salvation through the death and resurrection of our Lord; baptism being, he says, a "like figure" (lit. antitupon, i.e. a corresponding type), a type teaching the same truth. Noah was not a Jew. Why, then, should he be the type of a Jewish remnant? As typical of the believer "in Christ" he was untouched by the flood, because the ark bore all the storm. This could not be said of the remnant of Israel that is to be brought through the time of Jacob’s trouble and converted at the coming of Christ. Again, the flood was an overwhelming judgment, likened in the New Testament to the overwhelming wrath that will descend on Christ’s foes at His coming, and not to any period of tribulation that may precede it. The flood came and destroyed them all (Luke 17). There is immense contrast instead of likeness between the latter day Jewish remnant persecuted by the tyrant Antichrist and Noah safe inside the ark with the ungodly world silent beneath the flood.
Enoch, who was translated 669 years before the flood, is mentioned once in Hebrews 11 in reference to his "walk with God" and his translation without seeing death, and by Jude in reference to his prophecy of Christ’s coming with His holy myriads to execute judgment, but nowhere in reference to any suggestion of a secret coming. The New Testament uses Moses and Elijah, Noah and Lot, as typical in reference to the Lord’s coming.
Moses typifies those who sleep in (or through) Jesus, for the Lord buried him. Elijah typifies those who remain till He comes. Both of these appeared with Christ in glory on the mount of transfiguration, a representation, indeed, of "the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 1:16).
Noah illustrates those who are watching and ready for the coming, while Lot is like children of God who are so mixed with the world’s affairs that their eyes are blinded to prophetic truth; for he did not know till the very night that the overthrow was imminent, and he lost everything. Saved though as by fire.
The following objection has been received:—"Revelation 19 shows holy ones, Christians, coming with Christ out of heaven to execute judgment on the beast and the False Prophet. Therefore, the heavenly company is distinct from those who suffer under the Beast and will be saved at Christ’s coming. The Church cannot come out of heaven to take part in the judgment of the Beast and at the same time be its victims on earth."
Answer. As in Daniel 7:11 we see the beast slain, while later in verse 13 Messiah is brought before the Ancient of Days and invested with the authority which results in the beast being destroyed, even so it is here. The One upon the white horse is seen in Revelation 19:13 with garments already dipped in blood (the blood of His foes) before the conflict is described in verses 17-21. All the saints will be caught up to meet the Lord when He comes to destroy Antichrist; hence they may suffer under him until the Lord appears, and at that moment be changed and translated to join the Lord’s host as He, with all His angels, come forth.
Edition of Our Lord Cometh, Revised And Enlarged, by
Wm. J. Rowlands. Originally published in Great Britain (1939)
by the author . See Book Review.
(2) The title
"Our Lord Cometh" is the translation of the Aramaic phrase
used by Paul: "marana tha"
translated "maranatha" in 1Co 16:22 (KJV and NASB95)
(3) A shorter version of Rev. Rowlands
pretrib vs. posttrib view can be found here.