- Understand that the second coming is a hotly contested subject
- Comprehend the terms used for the Second Coming
- Know the events of the Second Coming
- Explore end time terms
In this session, we will introduce you to the idea that the Second Coming is a hotly contested subject. Second, we will help you comprehend the terms used for the Second Coming in the Second Testament. Then, you will read about the events of the Second Coming. Finally, we will explore the end time terms.
Where We Are Going
The Second Coming is a hotly contested subject
The terms used for the Second Coming
The events of the Second Coming
End time terms
The Second Coming: A Hotly Contested Subject
The subject of the Second Coming of Jesus is one of the most hotly contested subjects within the ecclesiae. It is not an argument about if Jesus will return, but when he will return. A form of theology, which arose in the late 1820s with the influence of John Nelson Darby called Dispensational Theology has led believers on a path toward escapism and pitted brother against brother and sister against sister. It is our intention in this session to look at some of the passages of Scripture that teach about this subject, as well as the definitions of some of the language which is used when talking about this subject.
As we have stated, the subject of the Second Coming has single-handily caused more confusion among believers than any other topic in Scripture. Many volumes of books have been written concerning the second coming of Jesus. Within the last one hundred plus years, two different sides of the issue have arisen with writers defending both sides. If you remember nothing else here, remember this, Good Folks Can See Things Differently. It is not our object to present the last and final authoritative word on the subject, but to present the subject as I have come to understand it, with careful consideration having been given to both sides. The thoughts which I share in this session are not original with me. They are a combination of the thoughts of many authors, whom I, as well as others, consider to be gifted teachers of God’s Word. They were and are concerned that they faithfully deliver the word as they have been entrusted by the Spirit of God, as they have come to understand it.
Second Coming Instructions: 1 Thess. 4.13-5.11
Paul has alluded to suffering throughout his letter to the Thessalonians. In chapter 4, he turned his attention to the other questions which the church at Thessalonica had asked. What Paul taught while with them must have been misunderstood. Acts 17.2-3 gives us a clue to this situation:
As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead…
The resurrection was the key to his preaching. It was an announcement that Jesus was more powerful than Satan. In Scripture, resurrection and return are linked together. The ecclesiae heard that Jesus had power over death and concluded that they would not die. In a short time after Paul left them, someone in their newly formed ecclesiae died, which left their belief system in shambles. Their conclusion: God was not stronger than Satan.
Paul desired to answer the question: What happens to believers who die before the second coming? It is not my task to explain every aspect of the meaning of this passage. Therefore, the short answer to the question is that those who die first will not miss anything. They will be the first to be called to the side of Jesus. One should take serious consideration of Paul’s belief that he was going to be around when this event happened. The “we” in 1 Thessalonians 4.17 surely includes himself, his sidekicks (1.1), as well as the readers of this letter. What always amazes me is that the first reader, as well as we, are supposed to comfort one another with the answer to the question—not take the liberty to scare each other and bring guilt on each other. What we need to know about the answer to this question is stated in this passage. To give more information in our teaching than what we have received from Paul is the height of arrogance.
The second part of the section answers the question: When will Jesus return? It is helpful for readers to recognize in their study of Scripture who the author is talking to. Here it is a mixture of Greeks and Jews. The Greek is always in need of knowing the answer to the “when” question. Not much has changed in today’s ecclesiae. Men and women are still asking the question and authors are still trying to answer the question with reasons they believe that Jesus will return in their lifetime. What is Paul’s answer? The time of his return is not important. What is important, is that folks are ready to meet Jesus at the time God decides for him to return.
Paul is faithful to his style to give us some indication about how we are to stay ready for the coming of Jesus.
- Be alert and self-controlled. We do this by the power of Jesus in our lives;
- Put on faith, and love, and hope. Again, his famous triad. Notice that here is Paul’s early attempt at what is often called the armament of God, which is further defined in Ephesians 6.22-23.
When Jesus is coming is not as important as being ready for his appearance.
Again, we are told to encourage each other with these words. I try to make it my habit when asked questions about eschatology—the second coming—to turn people’s attention away from “when” to “what” should I be doing with my life as I wait for his coming. Paul is clear on this point.
Second Coming Enlightenment: 2 Thess. 2.1-17
As a backdrop to this chapter, let’s refresh our memory on Paul’s thoughts as shared in First Thessalonians. There he mentioned the Second Coming several times (1 Thess. 1.10; 3.13; 4.15; 5.23). First, it is significant to note this because First Thessalonians is a short book, and to mention the subject of the Second Coming with regularity could be understood as having some major importance to Paul and his teaching. Second, he spoke of the return of Jesus to gather his saints, both the dead and the living, to ever be with him (1 Thess. 4.13-18). Third, he admonished the Thessalonians to live with an attitude of expectancy of that day, so as not to be taken by surprise (1 Thess. 5.1-11). As we stated earlier, all this led to more confusion for the Thessalonians—hence, Second Thessalonians.
The question which is most often asked of 2 Thessalonians 2.1: Is the coming of Jesus for the saints before or concurrent with the day of the Lord? Of importance for a correct concept and answer to this question, one must see the terminology which Paul uses to describe the coming of the Lord.
Terms Used for the Second Coming
Coming: (parousia–pronounced pa · roo · SEE · ah; the capital SEE is where you place your verbal emphasis when saying the word). The word could be translated by either presence (see Phil. 2.2) or arrival. It was often used in a somewhat technical sense of the visit of a person with a high rank. The coming denotes the expected manifestation of Jesus and the definitive ultimate revelation of his glory.
Unveiling or Disclosure: (apocalypsis: a pa CA lip sis), The word’s usual meaning is unveiling or disclosure. When Jesus comes, his power and glory will be disclosed to the world.
Appearing: (epiphaneia: e pea fa KNEE ah), this word indicates the visibility of the return of Jesus.
The Day: The expression takes several different forms:
- The day of the Lord
- The day of the Lord Jesus
- The day of the Lord Jesus Christ
- The day of Jesus Christ
- The day of Christ
- That day
Since Paul and the early ecclesiae believed that the exalted Christ is the Lord (Phil. 2.11), it should be obvious that efforts to distinguish between the day of the Lord and the day of Christ and to find in those phrases two different eschatological programs—one for Israel and one for the church—are misguided. The view that the two phrases italicized above stand for two different ideas of how God will address the future of Israel and the church is the usual view of Dispensational Theology and is espoused by its teachers, i.e., J. D. Pentecost in Things To Come. 229-232, as well as other teachers like Unger, Walvoord, and Lindsey.
The following phrase, the coming of Christ is the day of the Lord, is apocalyptic—that is to say that God will break into the world again in Jesus. This is the day when God will visit the world to bring this age to a close and replace it with the age to come. This is not a single calendar day, but the beginning of an entire-time which will witness the final redemptive visitation of God in Jesus.
How then should we answer the previous question: Is the coming of Jesus for the saints before or concurrent with the day of the Lord? This passage appears to fit best with the view that the coming of the Lord is concurrent with the day of the Lord. As to the precise time, it is best to understand the statement of Jesus in Matthew 24.36 …no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. The person who presses timing beyond this presumes to speak where Jesus himself kept silent.
Second Thessalonians 2.2 indicates that there have always been some followers of Jesus, who let their imagination, rather than their reason, dictate their own understanding of the Second Coming of Jesus. The appeal of Paul was for the Thessalonians to retain their mental equilibrium. Two expressions help his readers to understand that they were not thinking properly.
1. Easily Unsettled: The New Revised Standard Version of the Second Testament (NRSV) translated this quickly shaken in mind. It can be understood as being caught up by sudden excitement. Picture a ship being driven from its mooring by a sudden gale and you have the appropriate view of Paul’s words.
2. Alarmed: The word is present tense and indicates a continually excited mind. The word can be understood as a state of jumpiness or worry.
The source of this heresy, that Jesus had already come, was threefold:
1. Prophecy: The early ecclesiae expected true humanity empowered communications (1 Cor. 14.29; 1 John 4.1). From the beginning, people have abused what God has given supernaturally.[ref]Winn Griffin. Gracelets. Harmon Press. 94-97.[/ref] The ecclesiae today should not shun prophecy, but be very careful in testing what is being said before life decisions are made. The Jesus followers in Thessalonia had apparently heard in a prophecy that Jesus had come. Their lives were being devastated because they were listening and believing without proper discernment. There is “true” prophecy in the ecclesiae today, however, there is more nonsense in the name of prophecy that needs to be dealt with and thrown away.
2. Report: This is a word used for teaching or oral communication. Someone had been teaching as the doctrine that Jesus had come. Just as with prophecy, one needs to test what is being taught by listening to God as he speaks to us individually and in community, as well as checking out what Scripture says and asking others their points of view.
3. Letter: A forged letter. That’s got to be the height of deception. Paul now seeks to correct this heresy, i.e., that the day of the Lord had come, with sound teaching which the Thessalonians could understand, causing others, who read this, much perplexity.
The day of the Lord, the Second Coming of Jesus, will not occur until these events materialize. Paul does not intend his readers or us to take these events in chronological order.
The Events of the Second Coming
1. Rebellion: The word is apostasy and has been translated by some Dispensational Theologians as departing in order to bolster their conception of a rapture of the ecclesiae before the tribulation. There is no support for such a translation in ancient literature. The word usually means outright opposition to God. This is not a falling away as has often been suggested, as much as it is apathy toward God and his authority (1 Tim. 4.1).
2. Man Of Lawlessness Revealed: This phrase is usually understood as referring to the Antichrist. Here is an interesting thought. If verse 1 means the rapture of the saints before the tribulation as stated by John Walvoord in The Rapture Question (152), and in verse 2, the day of the Lord is the Second Coming of Jesus, and the rebellion and man of lawlessness are revealed during the tribulation when the ecclesiae has already been raptured, then Paul is telling the Thessalonians something they did not really need to know because they would already be gone via the rapture. Obviously, he is telling them something that they should observe has not happened, so they may be calmed about the report which they had received. Paul leaves his readers with a description of the character of the Antichrist. The spirit of Antichrist is always here (1 John 4.3).
After this present evil age, all evil will be embodied into one human being, the Antichrist. He will arrogate to himself all authority, both secular and sacred. He will demand total submission, including worship. His character is lawless. His destiny is to be doomed to destruction. His activity will be to set himself up against God. I do not believe that Paul is here referring to a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple had not yet been destroyed and the word he used in this passage does not mean the whole Temple, but the innermost shrine of the Temple. He used this word later in his book to the Corinthians to mean the ecclesiae (1 Cor. 3.16ff.). It is a metaphorical way of expressing defiance to God by the Antichrist.
The ides of apocalyptic fills ever age. Turn on the TV read Facebook et. al., ane you will see unwitting folks simply parroting what they have been told or read. The material goes through their eyes, bypasses there brains, and is regurgitated out their mouths or fingers with not critically thinking occurring. Don’t believe everything that you hear or read, including this material, without reading and reflecting. In short, think before you write and respond. Don’t just vomit all over folks that you think are vehemently wrong.
3. Holding Him Back: This person of Antichrist will not be revealed until a restraining influence is out of the way. In 2 Timothy 2.5 Paul reminded his readers that he has told them all this before and 2 Timothy 2.6 warrants an understanding that they knew what the restraining influence was. The question is: Can we? Paul’s vagueness should make everyone hesitant to use this part of Scripture as proof of the pre-tribulation rapture of the ecclesiae. There have been several views set forth as to the meaning of the restraining influence:
- The Roman Empire and its Emperor: The early Church Fathers may have held this view. Those who hold this viewpoint that the restraining influence is referred to as a “what” in verse 6, as well as a “he” in verse 7.
- Human Government: This view comes from the one above. When human government fails in its effort to restrain rebellion, the Antichrist will step in and begin to rule.
- The Holy Spirit: Most who hold to a pre-tribulation rapture theory believe this as the correct view. The Holy Spirit will no longer be active in the world because the believers have been taken out.
- The Ecclesiae: This is akin to the “c” above. When the ecclesiae has been raptured, then the Antichrist can be revealed. It often amuses me as to how much time some teachers spend trying to figure out who the Antichrist is while at the same time holding to the view that they are not going to be here. My question is: So what difference does it make who it is if you are not going to be here?
There are grave difficulties that attend these last two positions. In fact, they teach a regression back to First Testament times. It denies the power and fullness of the Holy Spirit and the ecclesiae. It is a matter of Biblical record that the greater the activity of Satan, the greater the activity of the Holy Spirit. There is no theology of reduction in the Second Testament.
If the Holy Spirit is the restraining influence as he fills the ecclesiae, then we have an interesting situation. Within the pre-tribulation rapture theory, it is taught that there will be 144,000 Jews evangelized in seven years without the presence of the Holy Spirit. Thought: What the church has been unable to do in centuries with the presence of the Holy Spirit, these Jews will do in seven years without the presence of the Holy Spirit. Go figure!
One cannot know for sure what this passage means. I do believe that whatever it means, that the ecclesiae will be around to see its full revelation.
The coming of the lawless one has the power of Satan behind him (2.9a). This power is displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs, and wonders (2 Timothy 2.9b). The power of the lawless one will result in the seduction of the wicked (2 Timothy 2.10). Here is an interesting thought: God uses the very evil that men and Satan produce for working out his purpose in the lives of people who have been seduced (2 Timothy 2.11-12).
God had chosen from the beginning of the process he would use for salvation. Notice the idea of Trinity in verse 2 Timothy 2.13: Lord, God, and Spirit. This must have been the accepted view. Paul encouraged these followers of Jesus to stand firm. This means to get a firm grip by holding to the teaching he has given them concerning the Second Coming, both in person and in letters. He concluded the chapter with a prayer that God would provide for us eternal encouragement and hope which will, in turn, strengthen us in every task we do and every word we utter.
We have hope as we wait for the coming of Jesus.
End Time Terms
The following material includes the most commonly used words in discussions of the End Times. First, we will look at Millennialism, then Tribulationism, and finally the rapture of the ecclesiae.
This position states that Scripture does not predict a period of the rule of Christ on earth before the final judgment. This view holds to a development of good and evil in the world until the Second Coming of Christ. Amillennialism believes that the kingdom of God is now present in the world as the victorious Christ rules his ecclesiae through the Word and the Spirit.
This view emphasizes the present aspect of God’s kingdom which will reach fruition in the future. Postmillennialist believe that the millennium will come through Christian preaching and teaching. Such activity will result in a more godly, peaceful, and prosperous world. This period is not necessarily limited to a thousand years. During this age, the ecclesiae will assume greater importance, and many economic, social, and educational problems can be solved.
Often called historic premillennialism, it was the prevailing eschatology during the first three centuries of the Christian Era. It is found in the works of Papias, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Hippolytus. Premillennialism believes that the kingdom of God will be inaugurated in a cataclysm. They believe that the return of Christ will be preceded by signs including wars, famines, earthquakes, the preaching of the gospel to all nations, a great apostasy, the appearance of Antichrist, and a great tribulation. These events will culminate in the Second Coming, which will result in a period of peace and righteousness when Christ and his saints control the world.
Those holding the pretribulation view of the Second Coming of Jesus attempt to identify all premillennialists with their view of the End Times. However, through most of the history of the church, those who taught premillennialism did not have a detailed pretribulation calendar of events of the End Times
Until the 19th century, believers thought in terms of the rapture and the Second Coming of Jesus as the same event. It occurred after the tribulation. In the 19th century, a swing to Dispensational Theology appeared.
Dispensational Theology had its roots in J. N. Darby, a Plymouth Brethren minister. He introduced into the ecclesiae a brand new idea: that the coming of Jesus had two stages: one for his saints at the rapture and one with his saints at the Second Coming at the close of the tribulation.
According to his interpretation of prophecy, there was a seven-year period of time which was the 70th week predicted by Daniel (9.24-27). With the ecclesiae removed, God would resume his dealing with Israel.
Darby’s ideas widely influenced Jesus followers in England and the United States. He came to the U.S. to hold prophetic conferences and while in the U.S. met C. I. Scofield. Scofield adopted Darby’s prophetic interpretation and incorporated it into his reference Bible. This position was taken up by some of the leading theological schools in the nation, like Dallas Theological Seminary, Talbot Seminary, etc. The book which brought this system of belief to the populous was The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. He was a product of Dallas Seminary. It was a favorite book of the Jesus Movement in the ‘60s. Along with this, most of the TV evangelists believe and share this point of view.
There are several versions of how Darby came by this system of interpretation.
Samuel P. Tregelles, who was also a member of the Plymouth Brethren movement, believed that Darby’s view originated during a charismatic service conducted by Edward Irving in 1832.
Other historians believe that this new understanding of the rapture of the church was the product of a prophetic vision given to Margaret MacDonald in 1830. Margaret claimed special insight regarding the Second Coming and began to share her beliefs with others. Her teaching led to a charismatic revival in Scotland. Darby was impressed by this and visited her. By his testimony, he rejected her claim of a new outpouring of the Spirit, but accepted her approach to the rapture of the church and worked it into his system.
Darby’s explanation is based upon his presupposition that the ecclesiae and Israel are distinct peoples of God in Scripture. When the ecclesiae is withdrawn from the world, then the prophetic events involving Israel can be fulfilled.
The pretribulation rapture of the church is based on a literal chronological interpretation of the book of Revelation.
In this scheme of interpretation, the seven letters of Chapters 2 and 3 equal seven successive ages of ecclesiae History.
1. Ephesus = Apostolic
2. Smyrna = Persecution
3. Pergamum = Patronage
4. Thyatira = Corruption
5. Sardis = Reformation,
6. Philadelphia = Evangelization
7. Laodicea = Apostasy
Darby’s scheme continues with the rapture of John in Chapter 4 symbolizes the rapture of the ecclesiae. Chapters 6–18 equal the Great Tribulation. This period of tribulation will involve the rise of the Antichrist who will promise peace on earth. He will agree to protect the restored state of Israel. However, he will turn to the Jews and demand that they worship him. The ones who will not cooperate will be persecuted. This final holocaust against God’s chosen people will lead them to accept Jesus as their Savior.
Plagues will ravage the earth during the time of tribulation and finally will come the battle of Armageddon.
Chapter 19 tells that the result of this battle will issue in the visible, personal, victorious return of Jesus to earth; the church safely in heaven has been enjoying the marriage supper.
Chapter 20 says that the Lord will bind Satan for a thousand years and rule the world with his followers. Chapter 20.7-22.21 tells us that Satan will be doomed and that the dead will be judged. The description of the new heaven and new earth is then described.
Some of the distinctive beliefs of Dispensational Theology are:
- God’s children are the Jews
- Jerusalem and the Temple must be restored
- The Jews are protected from the wrath of God.
- The Jews suffer persecution from the Antichrist.
In summary, the pretribulation view believes that all the prophecies which were supposed to be fulfilled when Jesus came the first time will come to pass at his Second Coming. The Jewish rejection of Jesus in the first century forced the postponement of the kingdom of God until the Second Coming.
The mid-tribulation rapture of the church became popular in the mid-‘50s. One of its leaders was Harold John Ockenga who was a leader in the Evangelical Movement which developed in the U.S. after World War II.
The modification which this view brings to the pretribulation rapture was the limitation of the wrath of God upon the world as described in Revelation 16-18 to the first three and a half years of the tribulation period.
The support for this argument came from Daniel 7.25, which was believed to indicate that the church will be under the tyrannical rule of the Antichrist for three and a half years.
For this view, Daniel 7.27 indicates that an agreement with Christians and Jews guaranteeing religious freedom will be made with the world ruler of the end times.
Revelation 12.14 is cited as supporting mid-tribulation by predicting a flight into the wilderness by the ecclesiae during the first three and a half years of the tribulation period.
This view maintains that the rapture is to take place after the fulfillment of certain predicted signs in the first three and a half years as described in Matthew 24.10-27. When Jesus returns in an impressive display, it will be to draw the attention of the unsaved people of the world who will notice that the Jesus followers are gone. This will draw large numbers into a relationship with God. It will be a major revival (Rev. 7.9, 14).
Those espousing a post-tribulation view of the rapture of the ecclesiae are uncomfortable with the sharp distinction between the ecclesiae and Israel which is held by pre-tribulation folks. They find no reason to distinguish sharply between Israel and the ecclesiae.
The rapture and the Second Coming of Jesus are the same events that appear to occur after the tribulation according to Matthew 24.27, 29.
They believe that much of the advice given the ecclesiae in Scripture relative to the last days is meaningless if the ecclesiae does not go through the tribulation. As an example, the ecclesiae is told to flee to the mountains when certain events occur, such as the setting up of the abomination of desolation in the holy place (Matt. 24.15-20)
This view believes that the people of God who face persecution is the ecclesiae. They believe that there is no internal evidence in the Bible and Revelation to indicate that the seven churches equal seven-time periods and that there is no indication that John’s rapture is the ecclesiae rapture. There are four basic varieties of post-tribulation:
- Classic post-tribulation can be found in the works of the late J. Barton Payne, who taught that the church has always been in tribulation and, therefore, the great tribulation has largely been fulfilled.
- Semi-classic post-tribulation found in the work of the late Alexander Reese believes that the entire course of church history is an era of tribulation, but, in addition, there is to be a future period of the great tribulation.
- Futurist post-tribulation was espoused by the late Dr. George Ladd. He believed that there would be a seven-year period of tribulation between the present era and the Second Coming. He interprets Revelation 8-18 in a natural fashion. He believed that the pretribulation rapture was an addition to Scripture and, as such, obscured the truly important event of the actual appearance of Christ to inaugurate his reign.
- Dispensational post-tribulation forwarded by Robert H. Gundry. This name was given to this view by the late John Walvoord who is a leading proponent of Dispensational Theology and former President of Dallas Theological Seminary. In this view, Gundry combines the pre-tribulation arguments with an acceptance of the post-tribulation rapture.
Rapture of the Ecclesiae
This is a phrase used by the pre-tribulation folks to refer to the ecclesiae being united with Jesus at his Second Coming. It comes from a Latin word rapio which means caught up. The scriptural support for some comes from 1 Thessalonians 4.15-17. The major divisions of interpretation of Paul’s words center on the relationship of the time of the rapture to the tribulation period which marks the end of this present evil age. The introduction and interpretations concerning the rapture of the ecclesiae have introduced a divisive element into Evangelicalism. On the surface, it would seem that this is a struggle over a very minor point, but on a deeper level, it is a rather basic argument. The pretribulation rapture is one of the major doctrines of Dispensational Theology.
It often leads the believer of this view to adopt a negative attitude toward culture. Often those who hold the view have a narrow outlook toward the ecclesiae and its mission, culture, education, and current events. Their version of Jesus against culture has imparted to the twenty-first-century Evangelicals a spirit of withdrawal and suspicion toward others who do not hold to their belief.
As a Jesus follower, I do not have to withdraw from this present evil age.
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