Promises and Secrets

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A website for those not afraid to examine their beliefs, compare them to the real world, and make sure they fit.



The Second Coming

VIEWPOINT



As simple as this sounds, there are still many opposing beliefs about how and when this will happen, who will be involved, and where they will come from. Oh, and how many times this will happen.

FACT



An indispensable belief for all Christians is that Jesus Christ will return for all the living and dead who believe in Him and that He will take them to live with Him forever.


BLUE VIEWPOINT



Many believe that Jesus will return before the end-time period known as the Tribulation so that believers will not have to endure the actions of the diabolical figure known as the AntiChrist.

Most people believe this, but cannot point to even one Biblical reference to substantiate the concept, so they separate references to the second coming into multiple events that can be applied to fit their needs. As widespread as this belief is, the Bible never even intimates this early rapture, and even specifies that it will not happen that way.

Popular, but not scriptural

Many pastors and very popular web sites have pushed this early exit viewpoint, but discussions with the pastors and email exchanges with the websites fail to produce any direct evidence or references to the word of God that support their concept. All that can be found are opinions stated with lots of emotion, and the current feeling is evidently that if you believe something strongly enough, then it must be true.

...and not very old

Now, there are many places to find "information" about the rapture, but if you go to any of them that actually research the idea before preaching on it, you will find that the pre-tribulation rapture is a new concept from the nineteenth century (the 1800's). It is not an idea preached by Paul, or any of the other apostles from the first century. An example of this non-conforming concept is shown on the site at A.S.K:

It may come as a surprise but the doctrine of the Rapture is not mentioned in any Christian writings, of which we have knowledge, until after the year 1830 C.E. Whether the early writers were Greek or Latin, Armenian or Coptic, Syrian or Ethiopian, English or German, orthodox or heretic, no one mentioned it before 1830 (though a sentence in Pseudo-Dionysius in about 500 C.E. could be so interpreted). Of course, those who feel the origin of the teaching is in the Bible would say that it ceased being taught for some unknown reason at the close of the apostolic age only to reappear in 1830. But if the doctrine were so clearly stated in Scripture, it seems incredible that no one should have referred to it before the 19th century.

The lateness of the doctrine does not necessarily mean the teaching is wrong (only the plain statements of the Bible can reveal that). It does show that thousands of eminent scholars over seventeen centuries (including the most astute "Christian Fathers" and those of the Reformation and post-Reformation periods) must be considered prophetic dunces for not having understood so fundamental a teaching. This lapse of seventeen centuries when no one elaborated on the doctrine must be viewed as an obstacle to accepting its reliability.

Now, there are some claims that authors as far back at the middle of the first century made statements that can be translated as references to the "pre-Trib rapture", but there are just as many, if not more, who claim that this idea is a pipe dream because those ideas were not clearly proclaimed by any of the "church fathers", and that the whole idea is from the 1800's. You will, however, find that, when concocted ideas are challenged, the search for "proofs" generally find some vague statement that, when viewed from the right narrow, slanted angle, will give some leeway in a loose translation for a subject never intended.

Reading lies into a verse

There are many references in the New Testament that refer to the fact that Jesus will return. The primary reference people use to describe the event of the second coming of Christ is 1 Thes 4:13-18, which describes the Lord's coming but does not give any hints as to when this will happen:

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord's word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Why did he write this letter?

Paul wrote this to the Thessalonians to calm the fears of some who thought that Christ had already come, not to let them know some secret timing for an event still in the future. Some people of the time of this writing evidently thought that Jesus had already come and gone (His recent physical first presence and ascension) and thought that they had missed the boat. Others thought that those who had already died would not get taken with Him when He came, only those living would be saved.

In fact, the passage above appears to let people know that Jesus had not yet come to be King, and that the planned order of events would not leave any true believer behind - alive or dead. Also, this will be a noisy, busy, reassuring event. To interpret this passage as anything other than a reassurance of what the people already hoped is to make things up.

Taken to "Heaven"?

To be thorough on the matter, there are some who think that there is a difference between the event listed in these verses in 1 Thessalonians and the actual Second Coming of Jesus. They feel that there will be a "secret" second coming which will take people out of the world to Heaven before the Tribulation mentioned above. (Challenge: find any reference to "Heaven" as a destination in this passage, even though this passage is often used as "proof" that those who are taken up will go to Heaven.) Then, evidently seven years later, they feel that there will evidently be a second second coming in which He will come again again and gather up those He has already gathered up and take them to Heaven again. (I think I hurt my brain saying that.)

Again, to be fair, there are several versions of this thought line, including one that declares that the second second coming will only happen for those were converted to faith in Christ during the Tribulation and so became believers after the "Rapture". However, with no references, what justifies adding this interpretation to a statement that is already very clear?

More confusion

There is one point that, unfortunately, seems to make this secret Rapture idea very easy to accept. The Bible says in Zech 14:5 and 1 Thes 3:13 (that would be Old and New Testament, in case you think we use only one source to prove a point) that when Jesus comes He will be accompanied by His "saints", or more accurately, His "holy ones". Most Christians automatically think this is speaking of people who have died in Christ and went straight to Heaven or were Raptured.

This mistaken understanding gives credence to either of two scenarios that are common among Christian beliefs; 1) People go to Heaven when they die, or 2) The dead will be Raptured before the tribulation as will the living in Christ. Unfortunately, neither of these scenarios have support in the Scriptures.

Any research into hermeneutics, etymology, and popular commentaries cast a totally different light on this interpretation. No, I'm not going to do a hermeneutics or etymology study here, the commenters have already done that for us. However, you may be surprised at what you would find if you did.

But, then there are the facts...

A quick search for "Zech 14:5 commentary" takes you to a page that shows various commentaries for both the expository view of English translations and the exegetical view in the original languages. While some of them don't even mention the "saints" passage, those that do limit the interpretation of that word to "angels". There are two exceptions to this statement. One exception to this is the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, which says:

saints - holy angels escorting the returning King (Mt 24:30, 31; Jude 14); and redeemed men (1Co 15:23; 1Th 3:13; 4:14). Compare the similar mention of the "saints" and "angels" at His coming on Sinai (De 32:2, 3; Ac 7:53; Ga 3:19; Heb 2:2).

"Proof" references?

Not to make too fine a point of this, but look up all the verses used to justify the "redeemed men" and "similar mention of the 'saints' and 'angels' " and you will see, with the exception of 1 Thes 4:14, they never even mention men. Even for this passage, my CJSB puts it this way:

14 do who have nothing to hope for. For since we believe that Yeshua died and rose again, we also believe that in the same way God, through Yeshua, will take with him those who have died. (1 Thes 4:14, CJSB, emphasis mine)

Jesus is going to raise the "sleeping" dead in Christ at His second coming, along with those faithful believers living at the time. Dead bodies without spirits do not "sleep" in the grave awaiting His return. 1 Thes 4:16
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

clearly says that the dead in Christ will rise first. If Christ comes down from Heaven and then the dead in Him are raised from their graves to meet Him in the air, what does that say about where they were? He will then take (from His point of view, "bring" from that of those on earth) them to earth to reign with Him for the Millennium.

Take your pick...

The other exception is the Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, which mentions an either/or scenario. Why this one offers the choice is not stated, but the reference to bringing their spirits to be reunited with their bodies implies a belief that their spirits have been residing in Heaven. As shown on other pages of this site, this concept has no justifcation in the Scriptures and is a personal interpretation (opinion) beyond the evidence.

A very noisy "secret" event

The "secret" event that some say is described in these passages described in 1 Thes 4:13-18
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord's word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

somehow nullifies verse 16 in the same set of verses or banishes all the noise making to the second second coming. Based on the words of verses 16 and 17, I see an uncanny resemblence to the real Second Coming events described in Rev 20:4-5
4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.

where the only reference to a resurrection is to the first resurrection. If this is the first resurrection, and there can only be one first anything, the rising of the dead in 1 Thes 4 must either be a later resurrection, for which at this point there is no need, or it is the same first resurrection described in Revelation.

Maybe in Daniel...

In an effort to cover as many bases as possible, my wife presented an idea this morning that Daniel 12:1
At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people--everyone whose name is found written in the book--will be delivered.


means there will be a Rapture before the Tribulation starts because of the phrase "will be delivered". In reading the passages again, do some comparison with the passages in Revelation 13 through 20, but you still cannot get there from here.

If you tie these words of Daniel 12:1
At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people--everyone whose name is found written in the book--will be delivered.

with the activities in Chapter 11 of Daniel, you see that the anti-christ has just finished doing his mean thing, and it is over for him. Daniel 7:25
He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.

and Rev Chapter 13 clearly say that the anti-christ will insult God and have the holy people delivered into his hands, so they must have been around for that part. That took 3 1/2 years (time, times, and half-a-time). The only thing left after that (or maybe happening at the same time) is the Wrath of God which is the series of seven trumpet judgments, from which Michael will protect the people of God (Daniel 12:1
At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people - everyone whose name is found written in the book - will be delivered.

). That takes 3 1/2 years as well, and it is that from which the people "will be delivered".

How many days...?

There is some discussion about the lengths of time mentioned in Daniel that vary from the 1260 days of Revelation, namely the 1290 days from Daniel 12:11
From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.

and/or the 1335 days from Daniel 12:12
Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.

, but the differences are not significant to this discussion. Either way, there is a period during which the saints are persecuted by the anti-christ for half of tribulation, and another period during which Michael protects ("delivers") the people of God from the Wrath of God for the other half, and all God's people are patient enough to wait through the whole time (1335 days).

If you are not down here going through the period of God's Wrath on the earth, as some claim, there is no need for any patience. Yet,there is no time for the people of God to have been "raptured" and yet still go through these periods of time.

Everything in the interpretation must fit

Some interpret the passage from Daniel 12:2
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

in such a way as to show that all these things happen at once--thus allowing the misleading thought that we are "raptured" right after the resurrection and then whisked away to Heaven, missing all the fun of tribulation. However, to make them fit with John's very detailed description of the end times in Revelation, we must look at them closely, and see them in a way that allows both the resurrection and the rapture to fit the words of the Bible. The only way this can be is if the "rapture" happens at the second coming of Christ.

Daniel was describing a very future prophecy, and he knew it must be far future because of the interpretations of his famous statue of many materials representing Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Roman empires, as well as the mixed kingdom (feet of clay and iron mixed) at the end times. So, when we interpret Daniel's prophecy, we must stay somewhat general, unlike that of John's Revelation which specifies a deliberate series of events.

Jesus Christ is coming - His way, not ours

At the end of that time Jesus Christ will return to fight a battle (Rev 19:11-15
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.

), resurrect the dead in Christ (Daniel 12:2
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

, Rev 20:4-5
4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.

), gather the living in Christ (1 Thes 4:17
17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

), and establish His kingdom here on the earth. Then, after the thousand years, the "others" mentioned in Daniel 12:2 are raised to shame and everlasting contempt (the rest of the dead from Rev 20:5).

Now, without pontificating here, this is just pointing out what is fairly obvious in the text. Anyone can believe anything they want. The final decision is with Christ. As long as it does not affect your salvation, it doesn't matter what you believe about the order of events, as long as you do not lose faith because what you thought would happen didn't. If you see another way to interpret the actual words of the Bible without making up stuff, I would be happy to investigate any verses that point a different way.


Disagree? Find an error? Contact us at glenjjr@gmail.com and give us your view.



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