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The Closing Drama at The End of The Age
Is Christ's Coming One Coming or in Two Phases?
By M Dean Koontz
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 M Dean Koontz
All rights reserved.
THE THEME OF THIS STUDY: THE CLIMAX OF THE AGES
Among those whose faith rests securely in God's revealed truth in the Scriptures, the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ at the end of the age is a given. It will be the climax of history, the end of this age, as we know it, and the beginning of a new and glorious age of righteousness in the millennial kingdom. Every generation of believers has lived with the knowledge that they could be the generation living on earth when this climactic event occurs.
The theme of this study is that the Lord's coming is consistently seen as a singular event. Not one coming in two phases, but one climactic event. The revelation of the Lord is seen by most expositors as a climactic event at the end of the age. The question is, are there two aspects or phases of His coming either before the seven years, in the middle of the seven years, or during the last half of the week of years? It seems to me that if a period of time intervenes, there are really two comings. I have searched in vain for a clear statement in Scripture that there will be two aspects to Christ's Second Coming, one for the Church in a rapture in the clouds, and then a second coming sometime later, with the Church, back to earth. I must confess that I taught this view for many years, always with some nagging reservations.
However, the singular coming of our Lord is easily demonstrated. The burden of proof for a two-phased coming rests with those who teach it. In this study, I have no desire to refute those views, but only to declare what I believe the Scriptures clearly state. That the Bible consistently emphasizes a singular event can be seen from a simple reading of the text
"Tell us, what will be the sign of your coming (singular) and of the end of age" (Matthew 24:3).
"for as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so will the coming (singular) of the Son of Man" (Matthew 24:27).
"But as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming (singular) of the Son of Man" (Matthew 24:37).
"That is how it will be at the coming (singular) of the Son of Man" (Matthew 24:39).
"But each in his own turn: Christ, the first fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come."(1 Corinthians 15:21-24).
"But what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of (or at the coming of) our Lord Jesus Christ when he comes? (1 Thessalonians 2:19).
"May he give you inner strength that you may be blameless and holy before God, even our father, in the presence of (or at the coming of) our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints) (1 Thessalonians 3:13).
"According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming (singular) of the Lord."(1 Thessalonians 4:15).
"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming (singular) of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thessalonians 5:23).
"Concerning the coming (singular) of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him." (2 Thessalonians 3:1).
"And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor (epiphany) of his coming (singular)" (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
"Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming (singular)" (James 5:7).
"... we told you about the power and coming (singular) of our Lord Jesus Christ ..." (2 Pet. 1:16)
"Where is this 'coming' (singular) he promised?" (2 Pet. 3:4).
"... as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming (singular)" (2 Pet. 3:12).
"And now, little children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming (singular)" (I John 2:28).
In every case, without exception, Christ's second coming is spoken of as a singular event at the climax of the age. There is not even the slightest hint of two comings or a two-phased coming. If such is to happen, the Bible is silent about it, and this is truly remarkable since this event is so important. The coming (singular) of our Lord has been and continues to be the blessed hope of the church. In the next chapter, I want to comment briefly on the three words that are used in Scripture to describe Christ's climactic coming.CHAPTER 2
HIS CLIMACTIC COMING: THE KEY WORDS USED
Though we do not know the exact time of Christ's return, we can know the approximate time. And the words that are frequently used to describe His return give us a clue generally as to when His return will occur. These three words are parousia, apocalypse, and epiphany, or as they are variously translated, coming, revelation, and appearing. We want to examine them briefly. Do they indicate a one or two phased coming of our Lord? There isn't a uniform rendering of these words, that is, the Greek words are not always translated by the same English words, but that should not deter us.
1. Parousia: The Coming of the lord in real Presence
The word parousia is the most frequently used word in the New Testament in reference to the coming of Christ. It is from para meaning with, and ousia, meaning being, and it denotes both an arrival and a consequent presence with. It occurs twenty-four times in the New Testament in a variety of ways. Pre-tribulationists suggest that this word is used in a general way and not in any specific sense. They assign certain references, quite arbitrarily, to the rapture that they assert occurs prior to the tribulation when Christ comes for his church, and others to the revelation, when He comes with His church. Such a distinction seems unwarranted, since all the references seem to refer to one coming, and not two phases of one coming.
The first mention of it is in the Olivet Discourse when the disciples questioned the Lord, "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming (parousia) and of the end of the age" (Matthew 24:3)? The reply the Lord gives them mentions a number of things that will constitute the beginning of "birth pangs" or "sorrows". The things that immediately precede His coming are mentioned in all the Synoptic Gospels ... Jerusalem surrounded by armies, the abomination of desolation, a period of great tribulation, celestial disturbances, then His climactic coming on the clouds of heaven and the angelic harvesting or gathering of the elect from the far flung corners of the earth. In verse 15, Jesus specifically alludes to the abomination that causes desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel. Then he adds, "... let the reader understand." It should be noted that Jesus' reference to Daniel 9 and 12 indicates that the reference pointed to a distant future event in the middle of a week of years. Thus, they do not refer to the events that happened a few years later in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D. The seals, trumpets, and bowls describe that week of seven years in the Revelation, and the sequence is noticeably similar.
In all the synoptic gospel accounts of the Olivet Discourse we need to begin with the climactic coming of Christ in glory, and work backward. This backward tracing of events details the signs that will immediately precede His coming in the clouds, and they constitute the 70th week of Daniel's prophecy with the emphasis on the last half week of years (3 ½ years).
At The End of the Age
Our Lord used the same word in his teaching about the end of the age. "For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming (parousia) of the Son of Man" (Matt. 24:27). It will be like a bolt of lightning, glorious, visible, and evident to all.
His Coming Will Be Like It Was In The Days Of The Flood
"As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming (parousia) of the Son of Man; they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming (parousia) of the son of Man" (Matthew 24:37, 39). Jesus seems to be saying that those in the world better be ready, because when He comes, it is too late to get ready. It will be sudden, as it was in Noah's day, (although ample warning had been given), and it will be marked by finality. Everything was going on as usual, and then the rains came, and Noah took his family inside the ark, shut the door, and all opportunity for those on the outside to repent and believe was over. Many books that are being written today seem to reflect the view that the coming of Christ will constitute a wakeup call to the world, and many will then believe. That doesn't seem to be what Jesus is saying here.
His Coming With All His Holy Ones
"May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of (before) our God and father when our Lord Jesus comes (parousia) with all his holy ones"(1 Thessalonians 3:13).
Paul tells us in I Thessalonians 2:19 who will be with the Lord at His coming, "For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of (before) our Lord Jesus when he comes (parousia)? Is it not you?"
It is argued by some that our Lord must have come "for" his saints in order for him to come "with" all his saints, and that suggests a two-phased coming. Not necessarily. First, there is strong evidence that "all his saints" here may refer to his angelic armies. The original reference is probably from Zechariah 14:5, "Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him." However, it could be both the angelic hosts and the saints. We have to include in our thinking Revelation 17:14 where the conquering Christ has with him when he comes to wage war "the called, chosen and faithful."
"They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of king, and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers" (Rev. 17:14).
Their "rapture and resurrection" occurred at the end of the tribulation period in chapter 14 with the harvest at the end of the age. In chapter 15, just before the bowls of wrath are poured out, they are seen in heaven, and the time frame in chapter 19 suggests that this is the same event as the Marriage Supper of the Lamb where the Bridegroom comes to take his Bride. Then the battle occurs, and all the holy ones (angels and believers) are with him in the final conquest. "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him ..." (Matthew 25:31). A parallel passage in the Revelation is chapter 19 and verse 13, "The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean ..." The marriage supper had just preceded this, indicating that rapture and revelation are closely related events.
The Resurrection and The Rapture
This is the word used in reference to the resurrection and the rapture of the saints. "... we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming (parousia) of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep ... we will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 16). His coming will be attended by a shout of command, the voice of the archangel, the trumpet of God. This is certainly not a secret coming!
The reference to His coming (parousia) is repeated in chapter 5 and verse 23, "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The Destruction of the Antichrist
It is also used with reference to the destruction of the Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3. "Concerning the coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him ..." Here his coming is associated with the Day of the Lord. Paul must be talking about the same "coming" (parousia) that he was referring to in his first letter to the Thessalonian believers. Here he adds that it will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed. "And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming (the epiphany of His parousia)". This most certainly occurs after the great tribulation.
We conclude, naturally, on the basis of this word, that the rapture of the living saints, the resurrection of believers, and the judgment of the Antichrist will all take place at the same time, namely, at the parousia of Jesus Christ at the end of the tribulation. It will be a glorious event, for when Christ destroys the Antichrist it will be by the brightness (epiphany) of his coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8). The parousia will bring salvation and judgment, salvation of the saints and judgment upon the world.
2. Apocalypse: The Revelation
The second word is the word "revelation," meaning the "apocalypse," "taking the wraps off," the "unveiling." It occurs eighteen times in the noun form, and twenty-six times in the verb form. It is derived from kalupto, to cover, and with the prefix, to uncover, and thus to reveal.
Does the Bible say we are waiting for the rapture, or does it say we are waiting for the revelation? Actually, the Bible says we are waiting for the revelation, not the rapture! Paul states that Christians are "waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 1:7). Here is where the King James Version confuses us, for it uses the word "coming" whereas the word is actually "revelation." Now, if we are waiting for the revelation, then we are not waiting for the rapture unless the rapture occurs at the same time, and if we are waiting for the revelation, then we are waiting for an event that will occur at the end of the tribulation period! This word "revelation" is the word Paul uses in Second Thessalonians 1:7-8 when he writes that God will recompense tribulation to those who now afflict the church and will also give rest to those who are now afflicted. If the affliction is to be rendered to the ungodly at the revelation of Christ, then the rest given to the saints will also be at the same time.
The Apostle Peter (I Peter 1:6-7) has a similar exhortation and instruction:
"In this greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."
How long is faith to hold out? Until the end of the tribulation period when the Lord shall be revealed! Look at verse 13:
"Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed."
What is Peter saying? He is speaking to a group of suffering Christians, and he promises that God's grace will be given to them abundantly at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Evidently the church will be on earth at the revelation, which comes at the end of tribulation period. Again Peter writes, "But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed" (I Pet. 4:13). There is that same word again, "revelation," or the verb form, "be revealed."
Excerpted from The Closing Drama at The End of The Age by M Dean Koontz. Copyright © 2011 M Dean Koontz. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
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