The Hope Of Christís Second Coming

How Is It Taught In Scripture? And Why?

By Samuel Tregelles

Contents: (selected chapters, more to be added later)

Chapter 3: The Visible Coming in Clouds, Acts 1. 1

Chapter 8: The "Secret Rapture" Explained. 3

Chapter 9: The "Secret Rapture": Its Origin. 3

Chapter 19: Secret RaptureóScriptures Contradictory. 5

Chapter 24: THE HOPE. 8


 Chapter 3: The Visible Coming in Clouds, Acts 1

When the apostles, forty days after the Lordís resurrection, accompanied Him to the Mount of Olives, and when they had received from Him His charge that they were to be witnesses for Him "unto the uttermost part of the earth," His ascension took place; "while they beheld He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9). But while they were thus left, He was mindful of them; the two in white apparel, who appeared to them, directed them onward to the day of His coming again: "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven." These words, with the previous mention of the cloud by which the apostles had seen Him received out of their sight, appear to be intended to lead them, and to lead us, to consider the definite promises and prophecies which had been given of His coming in the clouds of heaven. They might remember Daniel 7:13: "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought Him near before Him; and there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom," etc. This scene is not actually the second advent of Christ, but that which is seen in heaven as immediately preceding it; when a certain power of blasphemy upon earth, which up to that time has persecuted the saints of the Most High, is judged, and when Christ is coming forth to take the kingdom. It is to this scene in Daniel that our Lord refers, in the various places in which He speaks of His own future coming "with the clouds of heaven": these clouds were the accompaniment of His appearing in glory so soon as He has received the investiture of this kingdom.

Our Lord, in His discourse on the Mount of Olives, in speaking of what should be "immediately after the tribulation of those days," specifies the darkening of the sun and moon, etc.: "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:30). This, then, was the expectation of the Church declared by the Lord himself before He suffered, of which the apostles were again reminded when He had been taken up from them into heaven. When our Lord stood before the High Priest, and when he said to Him "I adjure thee, by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ the Son of God, Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said; nevertheless, I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven"[1] (Matthew 26:64). Who is there that cannot see how plain is the reference to the manifestation of the glory of Christ? The chief priests and scribes had not heard the discourse on the Mount of Olives, but they felt no doubt that our Lord claimed to be the person spoken of as "the Son of man" in Daniel 7, who would (He said) come forth, when He should be seen in glory by those who had rejected Him. "Ye shall see" has to do, not with the persons then addressed, but with Israel in unbelief looked at corporately.

In the revelation given to the beloved disciple in Patmos, we again find the same accompaniments of the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus: "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him"[2] (Rev. 1:7); and to this promise the response is, "Even so; Amen." Thus, if we see the coming of Christ spoken of in connection with judgment on persecuting Gentile powers, or in relation to Israel, when His believing people are addressed as to their hope, this event is spoken of in similar language. There is no hope set before the Church prior to the appearing of the Lord in the clouds of heaven: this is taught us in almost every way that can be conceived; because the Lord knew that our minds would be liable to the same inattention, and there would be in the Church the same dimness of apprehension, which He found in His disciples who were around Him when He was on earth. Are we looking on to this appearing of the Lord in visible glory, after iniquity and oppression have reached their height, and immediately after the unequalled tribulation, or have we formed some other hope in our minds? It is to this coming in the clouds of heaven that the apostles were directed when Jesus ascended; it is to the .testimony to this coming that the Apostle John responds, "Even so; Amen."

Footnotes Chapter 3:

[1] Our Lord, in this brief answer, refers to several Scriptures; besides Daniel 7:13, He alludes to Psalm 80:17, "Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the Son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself. So will not we go back from thee," etc. Here the Son of man, at the right hand of God, is spoken of as the only hope and deliverer for Israel (Ps. 110:1ó"The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool"), points out the place into which the rejected Messiah should be received, until He comes forth to set His feet on those whom Jehovah will have set as His footstool, when He gives Him the commission, "Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies."

[2] It is scarcely needful to point out the use made in this passage of Zechariah 12:10: I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born." How clearly does the connection of this passage, taken with its context, show that the coming of the Lord in the clouds of heaven is that which leads to the national conversion of Israel: "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness." Just as clearly does the use of Daniel 7, in connection with the Lordís coming, show that He shall then reign as receiving a kingdom on earth; for there are then those to whom shall be given (with Him and under Him) "the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven" (verse 27).

Chapter 8: The "Secret Rapture" Explained

But there is a very different theory of the coming of the Lord as the hope of His Church, which many teach, and which many more receive, as though it were unquestioned truth.

It is said that there shall be a secret coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; that at this secret coming His believing people who are in their graves shall be raised, and the living changed, and that a secret rapture of the Church shall then take place; that this secret coming and secret rapture are our hope, and not the manifested appearing of Christ in the clouds of heaven.

It is said that after this secret removal of the Church, the full manifestation of human evil, for some years at least, will take place, during which time shall be the display of the power of Antichrist, the persecutions foretold in the Revelation, the extreme trials of Israel, the unequalled tribulation; and that at the end of this will be the manifestation of Christ visibly coming with His Church in the cloud of glory.

This is the doctrine of the secret coming of Christ, which many now preach as if it were the acknowledged truth of God, instead of its being (as is really the case) that which at every point would require proof from Scripture.

But not only is this doctrine of the coming of Christ not taught in the Word of God, but if, in what has been previously said, there is any point of truth, then this whole system stands in distinct contradiction of what the Scripture reveals. It is refuted by whatever speaks of the Lordís conning in the clouds of heaven when every eye shall see Him, as being our hope; but it was to this that the beloved Apostle responded, "Even so, Amen:" by whatever speaks of events for which the people of Christ are to watch and wait, and for their right acting in which they have received instruction-by whatever tells us of the last power of evil being destroyed by the Lord at His coming, and not before-and by whatever speaks of the first resurrection occurring after the last anti-Christian persecution, and not before. It is likewise contradicted by specific and individual Scriptures, which, in simple testimony or in legitimate deduction, would be conclusive to a mind subject to Godís Word.

Chapter 9: The "Secret Rapture": Its Origin

When a new doctrine is taught as if it were a revealed truth, it behooves every Christian to inquire on what Scripture testimony it rests; and unless this is satisfactorily set forth, what is taught ought not to be accepted. This will apply very definitely to the system of the secret rapture and secret coming. When the hope of our Lordís second advent was revived as a point of definite teaching, when it was seen that until that day the ancient promises of blessing would not be fulfilled, there were those who thought of this one point of prophecy almost exclusively: if they turned at all to prophetic detail, it was with a kind of supposition that everything had been accomplished that was needful to introduce that day. They knew that the apostles had taught intervening events, the corruption that should take place in the Church from false teachers, etc.; they knew that the knowledge of such truths had once been a right thing, and that it had not been inconsistent with the hope of the coming of Christ; but now there was a kind of supposition that such prophecies had been exhausted, and that there might be a kind of momentary expectation of the Lordís appearing. This supposition was, apparently, not then connected with the belief in a secret coming or a secret rapture.

But when a closer study of prophecy had led to the conviction that many things remained unaccomplished, such as must precede the reign of Christ, there was an unwillingness to give up the opinions previously conceivedóthere was an endeavor to hold the prophetic detail without giving up the thought of the coming of Christ, apart from the possibility that any intervening events could be part of our expectation. This led to the adoption of theories by which definite points of revelation were explained away; and for the support of which it became needful to maintain that the moral power of the hope of the Lordís coming is lost, if any intervening event, any sign, is supposed to be a portion of truth. This, if deliberately held, would show that the apostles, and the Apostolic Church, who, as a fact, knew of certain intervening events, did not so hold the hope as to apprehend it in its moral power.

The tone of thought thus arrived at was quite different from that which recognized that intervening events had once been known, but in which it was assumed that they were now exhausted.

But still it seems as if it were some time before a secret advent of the Lord and a secret rapture of the Church had a definite and systematic place. It was rather as if the coming of Christ had been divided into two parts: indeed, there were those then who said that He would appear in glory, and when He had taken the Church He would cease to be seen until He came to crush the powers of evil, and then reign. This would, however, be virtually a second and third coming; it would err in the fact of addition to Holy Scripture, as well as in that of contradiction to its testimony.

But when the theory of a secret coming of Christ was first brought forward (about the year 1832),[1] it was adopted with eagerness: it suited certain preconceived opinions, and it was accepted by some as that which harmonized contradictory thoughts. There should, however, have been a previous point determined, whether such contradictory thoughts, or any of them, rested on the sure warrant of Godís written Word.

Thus the doctrine held and taught by many is, that believers are concerned not with a public and manifested coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven with power and great gloryónot with His appearing when every eye shall see Him, and when He shall sever the wicked from among the just, but with a secret or private coming, when the dead saints shall be secretly raised, the living changed, and both caught up to meet the Lord in the airóthat the shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God, do not indicate anything of publicity, for the ear of faith alone shall hear themóthat the Church shall meet the Lord, not at His visible coming, but in order to remain with Him, at least for years, before His manifested adventóthat after this secret coming there shall be in the earth a full power of evil put forth amongst both Jews and Gentiles that there shall be a time of unequalled tribulation and great spiritual perils (with which the Church has nothing to do)and that this condition of things shall end by the manifest coming of the Lord.[2]

Footnotes Chapter 9:

[1] I am not aware that there was any definite teaching that there would be a secret rapture of the Church at a secret coming, until this was given forth as an "utterance" in Mr. Irvingís Church, from what was there received as being the voice of the Spirit. But whether any one ever asserted such a thing or not, it was from that supposed revelation that the modern doctrine and the modern phraseology respecting it arose. It came not from Holy Scripture, but from that which falsely pretended to be the Spirit of God, while not owning the true doctrine of our Lordís incarnation in the same flesh and blood as His brethren, but without taint of sin.

After the opinion of a secret advent had been adopted, many expressions in older writers were regarded as supporting it; in which, however, the word "secret" does not mean unperceived or unknown, but simply secret in point of time. Thus in a passage of Milinanó

"Even thus amidst thy pride and luxury,
O! Earth, shall this last coming burst on thee,
That secret coming of the Son of man;
When all the cherub-throning clouds shall shine,
Irradiate with His bright advancing sign,
When the great Husbandman shall wave His fan," etc.

The third ling was taken up as if it taught the new doctrine of this secret coming; whereas the whole passage (even if it had any theological value) teaches a coming in power, glory, and publicity, in contrast to that which is private: so, too, as to other writers, whose words were sometimes used.

Sometimes from a hymn being altered, writers appear to set forth a secret rapture of which they had never heard, or against which they have protested.

[2] In 1863 I heard it publicly and definitely maintained, that the secret coming is the second coming promised in Scripture, and that the manifest appearing of our Lord is His third coming. Many seem to think this who do not say so in definite words. But a third coming is something very different from His coming again.

Chapter 19: Secret RaptureóScriptures Contradictory

Those who deny the Pentateuch to be a revelation given through Moses, have often pointed out the periods in the history of Israel in which the most plain commands of the law were set aside, either by neglect, or by direct and positive contravention.

Thus when, in the days of the Judges, the people so often practiced idolatry, how is it possible (it has been said) that they could have a law which so positively forbids all worship save that of the true God, and any religious honor to be paid to any image or picture? Is it not evident that the Mosaic law must have been a subsequent invention? If in the days of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, the people had possessed the law, how could that king have ventured to set it aside in all essentials? May we not (they say) conclude that the law which forbids all image worship, which limits the priesthood to a particular family, which prohibits sacrifice except in the place that God chose, and which defines so precisely at what period in the year the stated feasts should be observed, was then unknown? and, if unknown, could it then exist?

Skeptical questionings of this kind have a certain weight; but they at once fall to the ground when confronted with even the smallest quantity of fact; and if they had really any conclusive force, we must know that in the same way it might be said that the Christian Church cannot in general have possessed the New Testament. And if it be said that in many lands even now the Scripture is withheld from the people, so that no counter-argument can be drawn from its being practically set aside, yet in this country there is no such restriction; and thus any manner in which it is ignored amongst us, illustrates the way in which the law was neglected often by Israel of old; or, as in the days of our Lord, made of no effect through the tradition which had virtually supplanted it.

Now, it is very remarkable that those who have the Scripture, and who read it with some measure of attention, can have adopted or received a system which contradicts some of the simplest statements of our Lord and His inspired apostles; thus we can feel no surprise that there was a similar setting aside of the early portion of revelation: and as we find that this system is defended, so we may well imagine that there were some who could defend the proceedings and practices of the days of Jeroboam, "who made Israel to sin."

Our Lord has promised that He will return in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, and that then He will send forth His angels to gather His elect.

The secret advent doctrine teaches that He will come privately, and that then He will raise His sleeping saints and change the living, taking them up to Himself a good while before His manifestation.

The Scripture warns the saints of perilous times, and of evils in the latter day before the coming of Christ.

The secret advent theory maintains that no such events can be known as would interpose an interval between the present moment and the coming of the Lord.

The Scripture speaks only of Christís second coming, until which He remains at the right hand of God the Father.

The secret advent is a notion entirely opposed to this; for it represents our Lord first coming in a private manner to take the Church to meet Him, and then at a future period (according to some, a long interval) coming in glory; and this some call His third coming.

The Scripture teaches the Church to wait for the manifestation of Christ.

The secret theory bids us to expect a coming before any such manifestation.

Our Lord says that the wheat and tares shall be together in the field until the harvest.

The doctrine of the secret rapture affirms that at some time considerably before the harvest, all the wheat shall have been removed, leaving only tares.

Our Lord bids us look for certain signs, and use them in our watching.

The advocates of the secret advent contradict this, saying that signs are not for us.

The Scripture tells us that the first resurrection of the saints will be when the Lord has come forth as the conqueror, and that those will share in this resurrection who have suffered under the final Antichrist.

The teachers of the secret doctrine say that the resurrection of the present Church will take place long before the first resurrection [1], and before the manifestation of the Antichrist.

Is it not surprising that men with their Bibles in their hands, can be led to adopt a theory of doctrine which not only adds to Scripture, but contradicts it at all points? This is just the simple and natural consequence of the acceptance of the one leading addition to Scripture, that there shall be a secret coming of the Lord, and a secret rapture of His Church.

When Christ distinctly states a truth, it might have been expected that at least those who profess to be His believing people would receive His words as conclusive; and thus it might have been thought that those only who avowedly reject His authority would deny the force of what He said. Now our Lord has expressly taught us that His coming shall not be secret: He has told us this, not only by saying that it will be manifest, but also by warning against any supposition of such a secret coming as suits some of the "Jewish" notions. After speaking of the unequalled tribulation, He says, "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore, if they shall say unto you, Behold, He is in the desert, go not forth; behold, He is in the secret chambers, believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matthew 24:23-27). No man with these words in his Bible, ought to accept the doctrine of any secret coming without feeling that he is casting off, in so doing, the authority of the Lord; for this is done, virtually, when the warning of Christ is treated as if He had taught the very reverse, and as if He had charged us to believe and expect what, in reality, He says shall never be, and against the supposition of which He warns us.

Footnotes Chapter 19:
[1] In 1839, I heard it maintained with such approbation that objectors were hardly allowed a hearing, that if strictly correct language were used, the first resurrection of Revelation 20 would be called ďthe second-first resurrection;Ēfor it was said that ďthe first-first resurrectionĒ would have taken place privately a good while before. Is it not a sitting in judgment on Holy Scripture when endeavors are thus made to correct and to improve the words used by the Spirit of God? No one would do this unless he felt in his conscience the force of the words of inspiration, and struggled to set them aside.

Chapter 24: THE HOPE

Hope is always proposed to us for a definite object, and that of a kind which the hope should from its nature produce. The hope of the coming of the Lord, and our gathering to Him in glory, is given to the Church militant that it may be thereby strengthened for service and endurance. When the land on which Caleb had trodden was promised him for an inheritance, it was a hope that rested on his soul through the forty yearsí wandering in the wilderness, and during the conquest of the land, until he received it in the apportionment from Joshua; he was then fourscore and five years old, still kept alive by the Lord, and still as strong to go in and out for war as in the day that he had been sent by Moses to spy out the land. He did not expect the accomplishment of the hope until the forty years of judicial sojourn in the wilderness were completed until Jordan was crossed, and the land conquered. It was hope, though he knew of intervening years. When we are directed to look unto "Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith," it is as the One who had been Himself sustained by hope, "who for (or answerable to) the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2). So, too, as to us; it is as we have the hope set before us, rightly apprehended and sustained in the power of the Spirit of God, that we can serve and suffer.

Every time that believers meet around the Lordís table, to unite in the Lordís supper, as a part of the one Church, they declare, in obeying the Lordís command, that they unite in the Churchís hope: "As oft as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lordís death till He come." The coming is that public coming which He taught: just as we look back at the one Cross, and the one work of atonement there wrought, so is the one hope professed, "that blessed hope: the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ." The hope can be as little turned into something ideal, or of sentiment and emotion merely, as can the solemn reality of the Cross, and its one finished work. Any hope but that which God has given might make ashamed: "We rejoice (says the Apostle) in hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:2). For hope resting on Godís Word cannot "make ashamed." Godís love to us is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost given unto us: so that a hope directed by Holy Scripture is one which cannot fail. The Church is taught to pray, "Our Father, which art in heaven, . . . Thy kingdom come;" and this directs our thoughts and hopes onward (as it is surely intended to do) to that day when the Son of Man shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend; and then (and not before) shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.[1]

Manifested glory is an essential part of our hope. So far is the hope of a secret or private removal of believers to the Lord from having that character, that it more resembles the expectation of being taken away by death: a secret translation would be different from death in its nature, but it would be equally contrary to the appearing of the Lord in glory. Death, it must be remembered, is nowhere set before us as our hope; for although the believer has hope in death, and a hope that triumphs over the power of death, the removal of our spirits to be with the Lord is greatly different from our hope. It is a mistake to suppose the coming of the Lord to mean death; for death is not our Lord, and death is ours as well as life; and in dying we go to Him instead of His coming to us. A very similar mistake is it to suppose a private taking of Christís people to Him to be His coming in glory, for which we are called to wait.

An essential difference between the hope of the Lordís coming and death was long ago pointed out in this one particular: if we die, we leave the things here in their present course, and though our own life will be ended by death, yet the things in which we have taken an interest will not; and thus often, so far from the thought of death separating from worldly hopes, it has had the opposite effect of leading into arrangements for the continuance of those things in which pleasure was taken: they have been valued for the sake of persons left behind. The hope of a secret removal of the Church, without the hand of the Lord bringing all the present course of things to an end, may have, and has had, a similar effect. It has been thought that though the Church is removed, all secular things will remain, and that, as to them, arrangements might be made of the same kind as if removal by death were expected. Is this a hope that triumphs over present things and the snares of the world?[2]

There are, indeed, some who say, "An expectation of times of extreme peril before the Lordís coming, times of great tribulation, during which Christís people would have to wait on this earth, would be no hope to meóit would only lead to discouragement and dismay: I want that which would animate my soul; no hope that is not of such a character would produce in me an emotion of present joy, or give me sustained comfort." Such reasoners go on sometimes to say, that even though proof of revealed events to occur before the coming of Christ is logically correct, although no flaw or fallacy can be detected in the arguments, yet because the result is such as cannot be accepted, therefore there must be a defect somewhere.[3] Therefore in meeting such thoughts, it is well that it is on testimony that we rest as to this truth; not on a process of reasoning, but on the inspired declarations which bear on this point on every side.

But will the expectations produce no animating hope? Will there be no emotions according to God from the thought of seeing Christ in His glory, and being like Him at His coming? It is not on the intervening darkness that we have to rest, but on the brightness beyond; that is our hope, and it is made known to us that we may understand our place of service and patience while waiting for the coming of our Lord, by which all trial shall be for ever ended. However hopeless it may be to meet the arguments of idealistic visionaries, who assume a conclusion, and refuse to submit to opposing Scripture testimony, yet for others it is well distinctly to show that the hope of Christís coming was given to be the sustainment and consolation in intervening trial. So far from its being a thing to cast down or depress, it is gracious in the Lord to have told us what to expect in the path of the Church up to the time of the appearing of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Peter, in his first epistle, contemplates Christians as "begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet. 1:3), while waiting for the "inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time"(1 Pet. 1: 4, 5). Meanwhile, such may be "in heaviness through manifold temptations; that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and honor, and glory at the appearing [revelation] of Jesus Christ"(1 Pet. 1:7). The trial may be borne, the temptations may be endured, as knowing what the blessing shall be at the revelation of the Lord himself. And what is the practical exhortation to those thus set in the place of present trial: "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). This, then, is the point at which we are to look beyond all suffering, and this is the truth, as applied to our souls by the Spirit of God, which is to give us present sustainment. But, lest any should imagine that the Church should be exempt from special and peculiar times of suffering, as well as that which falls on men in general, he says, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christís sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy" (1 Pet. 4:12,13). "Let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls unto Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator" (1 Pet. 4:19). So also as to service. To those who feed the flock of God, taking oversight, the promise is, "When the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away" (1 Pet. 5:4).

The Apostle James teaches us not only the need of patience in waiting for the Lordís coming, but that that hope is our power in continuous patience: "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 the latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh" (Jam. 5:7,8).

The Apostle Peter, in his second epistle, while instructing the Church as to events which would take place, and how they were to be guided after his decease, gives the practical directions how they should be occupied with the prophetic Word until the Lord comes: "We have also a more sure word of prophecy" ("the prophetic word more abiding" than the voice in the holy mount had been), "whereunto ye do well that ye take heed (until the day dawn and the day-star arise)[4] in your hearts" (1 Pet. 1:19). Thus it is to the prophetic Scripture that we are directed; and he who feels the force of this injunction, and apprehends the authority of Scripture as given forth by the Holy Ghost, will feel that no diligence, no pains can be too great to be bestowed upon that which God has so given us, and about which He tells us that we "do well to take heed." Those whose hearts are subject to this commandment will not call the careful study of Scripture "mere head knowledge," "knowledge of the letter," or anything of the kind; they will seek to know what God has said, knowing that all Holy Scripture has been written for our learning, and for the reason that the Apostle gives immediately after: "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost;" and so far from feeling that their hope is dimmed thereby, they will know that they are waiting for Christ according to His word and will. To such the prophetic word will be indeed a light; and though darkness be around, they will be guided by that lamp which the Holy Ghost has kindled, until the day dawn and the day-star arise, until the glorious appearing of Him who is "the bright and morning star." Substitute a secret coming for the appearing of Jesus, and the prophetic word is no guide at all; for what bearing can prophecy have on the walk of those who ought not (on that theory) to be informed of a single event that can occur previous to the imagined secret rapture? Not such, however, is the teaching of apostles and prophets.

In the second and third chapters of this epistle, the Apostle gives ample warning of evils that should be. When men ask, "Where is the promise of His coming?" those who are instructed in Scripture may point to those testimonies which show what is to be expected, and why, in mercy to those who shall be gathered in, that day has not yet come. " We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Pet. 3:13). We wait then "according to His promise." If the millennial blessing :)f Jerusalem and the people of Israel (Isa. 65:17,18) is an exemplification of the new heaven and earth thus promised, how much there is in which the prophetic word may cause us to rejoice as to the glories of the reign of Christ. If we look for the new heavens and new earth, this is to us an object of hope; but it is one which cannot be immediate; for not till Christ has put down all authority and power, not till all enemies are subjected to Him, and even till death, the last ,nervy, has been destroyed, can there be the new heaven and the new earth. Thus we hope for Christís glorious coming, we hope for the millennial reign which then begins, and we hope onward for that which is thus postmillennial (Rev. 21:1-8), when "God shall be all in all. " We see before us point after point of glory and blessedness revealed, "according to His promise." "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye be found of Him in peace without spot and blameless." (2 Pet. 3. 14.) "Ye, therefore, beloved, seeing ye know before [the warnings given of intervening evil], beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness" (2 Pet. 3:17).

Most close is the connection between prophecy and promise: Prophecy is to the believer often promise: thus in Hebrews 12:26, "Now He hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven." Where is this promise written? In Haggai 2:6 we find the prophecy, which to the child of faith is promise, because it has to do with that day when the "kingdom which cannot be moved" shall be ours, in contrast to all that can pass away. The same epistle had before taught, "Ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry" (Heb. 10:36,37). The appearing of the Lord is to manifest His triumph in the Gospel: "As it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment; so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time, without sin, until salvation" (Heb. 9:27,28).[5]

The Epistles of Peter and James, and that to the Hebrews, are parts of Scripture which some term "Jewish;" but are they not markedly Christian? Does not the hope of Christís appearing, as set forth in them, lead to Christian walk and acting? Ought not patience, service, and hope to characterize all Christians? But these are some of the graces here set forth as results of a true apprehension of the coming of Christ. So, too, is the diligent study of Godís Word, and the upholding of its authority. There have been previously quoted many passages from the Epistles of St Paul to Gentile churches or to individuals: is not the consolation concerning the departed a precious part of our hope? Is it a light thing to be called always to abound in the work of the Lord? Is ability to glory in tribulations of small importance? And yet all these are connected with the hope of the appearing, the manifest revelation of Christ, and with nothing previous, and with nothing secret. Imagine a secret coming, and then how will any of these precepts and principles apply?

So far as there is found in the holders of the secret advent a power of Christian hope, love, service, joy, and endurance, so far does it spring, not from their theory, but from the measure of truth with which the soul is directed to Christ as the One who shall come. God sometimes works graciously on souls, in spite of very defective apprehensions of truth; but how much more could they act according to Him if their hopes were rightly directed.

The Apostle John teaches us: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is; and every man that hath THIS HOPE in Him (i.e. resting on Chris) purifieth himself, even as He is pure" (1 John 3:2,3).

This, then, is the practical power of the hope of Christís manifestation: this it is that can enable believers to glorify Him who has cleansed them in His blood, and clothed them in His righteousness: this it is that sets before them that consummation in which Christ shall be glorified, in His people receiving the full results of His redemption. This Scripture answers any who ask, "What effect can the hope of Christís appearing have? and why should such an expectation be cherished as a holy hope? Then it is that we shall be like Him. It is not a deduction, not a conclusion in which there may be some mistake; but the definite statement of the Holy Ghost in His own inspired Scripture. If we believe the promises of God as He has set them forth, we shall not transfer to a secret coming of Christ the many things and the practical results which the Scripture joins to His appearing in glory. It is better to act implicitly on what God says, even when we understand not His objects: still more should we do this when He tells us why He teaches us, when He seeks to make known to us His counsels, and intelligently to guide our souls by the promise of that revelation of Christ; then all who have been partakers of grace shall fully show the efficacy of His blood of atonement, and then shall they reign with Him in His manifested glory.

"He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly: Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus."

Footnotes Chapter 24:

[1] The advocates of the secret rapture well know that they are looking for what will (they suppose) be long prior to the kingdom;therefore do they put from them as their hope the Scriptures which speak of "the kingdom" and "the Gospel of the kingdom." But we are taught to pray, "Thy kingdom come;" and, lest this should be idealized, the next words are, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." This is not the point to which those look who expect to be taken to the Lord, and that then there will be a period in which Godís will shall be especially contravened on earth in all Satanic power and anti-Christian blasphemy. Therefore such act consistently in abstaining from the use of the petitions of the Lordís Prayer. But we may know assuredly, that any theory or principle which sets aside a distinct command of Christ is thereby proved to be erroneous. We can thus test what seem to be refined forms of doctrine.

[2]"My children are not yet converted (it has been actually said), therefore they have not the hope of the rapture of the Church; but as Christ may remove me as one of His people any day, I have to make proper provision for them and their position in this world."

[3] Such persons often escape from the bearing of Scriptures on their consciences by calling them "Jewish." But let such be asked, Do you mean unbelieving-Jewish, or "Christian-Jewish?" If they say the latter, then must the persons to whom such Scriptures apply be part of the Church, as essentially so as the Ephesians were; if they say the former, then it may be asked them, How can unconverted Jews use any part of the New Testament at all? If an expression be adopted, and used without explanation or definition it may then afford a shelter for any ambiguity or fallacy.

[4]The reasons for regarding "until the day dawn and the day-star arise" as a parenthetic clause, and for connecting "in your hearts" with what has gone before ("take heed in your hearts, ") are very strong; for what sense is there in the day-star arising in your hearts? If it meant any attainment in us, then it would indicate when we could do without the Scripture. The only tolerable objection that I have heard to the verse being thus read is, that prosecw in this sense is an elliptical phrase for prosecw ton noun, and that thus en taiV kapdiaiV is a most unsuitable addition. But, first, an elliptical phrase is often so used that the ellipsis could not be supplied without encumbering the sentence; and, second, "in your hearts" is a kind of adverbial expression equivalent to "inwardly." We may be told to direct our minds inwardly to Holy Scripture, because it needs that it be inwardly digested. "In your hearts" is similarly an adverbial expression in 1 Peter 3:15, "Sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts" ("inwardly sanctify Him"); if, indeed, there is not there a parenthesis, "Be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled (but sanctify the Lord Christ) in your hearts." 1 Peter 3:21 is an instance of an expression remaining at the end of a parenthesis, connected in sense and construction with what has gone before: "save . . . by the resurrection of Jesus Christ" belong together; while "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience before God," is simply a parenthetic statement.

[5] Men, as men, have before them death as the wages of sin, and after that the judgment: believers instead of having death thus as the penalty to fall on them, look back to the cross where Christ bore their sins; instead of looking on to judgment, they look to the coming of Christ for salvation in its fullest and most ample sense.

Samuel Tregelles (1813-1875)

Plymouth, March 17, 1864.

See Tregelles entire book here. Many other outstanding works can be seen at the Providence Baptist Ministries, a Reformed Baptist web-site.