THE LORD'S RETURN:
TWO STAGE TERMINOLOGY
The influential Christian writer C
I Scofield alludes to a "two stage" terminology writing
The return of Christ will be personal and corporeal, in two stages:
TO THE AIR - before the
Tribulation -usually called the Rapture
(1 Th 4:14 - 17; Phil 3:20 - 21; Rev 3:10)
THEN He will return...
TO THE EARTH - after the Tribulation
(Acts 1:11; Mt 23:39; 24:30; 25:31; Rev 19:11 - 16).
Herb Vander Lugt and Dave
Branon rightly that...
Why would Christ return again...and
again? (Ed: As one must postulate if the rapture is for example
Posttribulation). The main evidence for a two-part return of Christ revolves
around (1) God's distinct plans for Israel and the church and (2) prophecies
that describe the time of Christ return as both knowable and unknowable....A
two phase return would explain why Israel but not the church is mentioned in
the endtime events of Revelation.
J Vernon McGee gives an
illustration of the two aspects of Christ's return...
Now let’s make a
comparison. At Christmas time we celebrate the birth of Christ. At Easter we
commemorate the death and resurrection of Christ. At the incarnation the
emphasis is put upon a baby. The Israelites hadn’t been looking for Him to
come that way.
MacDonald put it,
looking for a king to lift them high. He came a little baby thing that made
a woman cry.”
Christ came into
the world as a baby.
After Jesus’ birth, Scripture is silent. We have no other report until about
thirty years later. There is one isolated reference that Dr. Luke gives us,
but for thirty years there is a period called the silent years in the life
of Christ. That is a very important period, yet we are told almost nothing
Then thirty years later Jesus steps out into public view. He had lived a
life of obscurity in that little town of Nazareth. Now He moves out and
teaches publicly for three years, then goes to the cross at the end of that
three-year period. He is buried and resurrected. This coming of Christ is
for redemption. The first aspect or appearance was incarnation; the second
aspect or appearance was redemption. Now there is a wide difference between
the two—a little Baby (incarnation) and a Man on a cross (redemption).
Anyone, I am sure, would recognize the difference. But we do not call that
the first and second coming of Christ. We package it up in one coming, which
We do the same thing for His coming for the church, then later His coming to
establish His Kingdom on the earth. We put both in one package—and I can see
nothing wrong with that. There is a wide difference, though, between the
Rapture and the Revelation. The difference is not only in time. At the
Rapture, He comes as the Bridegroom to take His Bride, His church, out of
the world. Remember that He does not come to the earth at that time at all.
At the Revelation He comes as a King to the earth to establish His Kingdom.
(McGee, J. V. On Prophecy: Man's Fascination with the Future. Nashville:
Thomas Nelson Publishers)
Arthur Whiting also
mentions a "two stage" return of the Lord, writing that...
The following is a brief summary of the
three words in the various New Testament uses so far as we have been able to
discover from personal investigation:
1. Parousia meaning “presence,” occurs 24
times, 16 of which refer to our Lord’s return.
In 8 of the 16 it is used in connection
with the coming of the Lord in judgment (Mt 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1Thes
5:23; 2Thes 2:8; 2 Peter 1:16; 3:4 ), while the remaining 8 describe that
aspect of His return connected with rewards, commonly called the Rapture (1
Cor 15:23; 1Thess 2:19; 4:15; 5:23; 2Thess 2:1; James 5:7, 8; 1 John
2. Apokalupsis meaning “revelation,” or “manifestation,” occurs 18 times, 4
of which describe the second advent.
3 times it is used apparently of the
Rapture (1Cor 1:7; 1 Peter 1:7, 13), and once in connection with the
judgment aspect (2Thess 1:7, cf. Ro 2:5; 8:19).
3. Epiphaneia meaning “appearing,” occurs 6 times, 1 referring to the Lord’s
first coming (2 Ti 1:10), and 5 to His second advent. Of these 5, 3
references are to the first aspect (1 Ti 6:14; 2 Ti 4:8; Titus 2:13), and
the remaining 2 to the second, or judgment, aspect (2 Thess 2:8; 2 Tim 4:1).
(Arthur Whiting: Bibliotheca Sacra
102:407 July 1945 p. 367)
Note that Whiting refers to the
Rapture as the "first aspect" of our Lord's second advent and
and the Second Coming as the
"second or judgment aspect". Note also that Whiting
identifies the verses he feels speak of
these two events but some of these designations are far from definitive. For
example, he designates
1Thessalonians 5:23 (note) as
a reference to the Second Coming
while Dr Walvoord says this same verse refers to the
Rapture! This example is not to given as a criticism but simply to
emphasize that if the experts in eschatology cannot agree which aspect of
Christ's return a given verse refers, it is little wonder that the
average layman might become confused. Below is 1 Thessalonians 5:23...
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify
you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete,
without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Comment: Both of these
eschatological experts agree that Christ is returning and that in itself
should be cause of believers to greatly rejoice. I tend to agree with Dr
Walvoord's interpretation (especially in light of the context in which Paul
has just given specific details concerning the Rapture) that this passage
refers to the Rapture. However to those believers who come to faith in the
(of which there will be many - compare notes on
Revelation 7:9 and
Revelation 7:14 where the same group
of believers are described), surely this passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:23
will be a precious promise that many cling to considering the persecution
they will be forced to endure.)
writing on Christ's Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24-25 comments that...
The interpretation will be followed here
that Matthew 24:4-14 deals with general signs, that Matthew 24:15-26 are
specific signs, and that Matthew 24:27-31 deals with the future second
coming of Christ as described in greater detail in Revelation 19:11-21. (Ref)
Speaking to the disciples as
representatives of especially the Jewish nation in the time of the end,
Jesus begins in Matt 24:15 to give them the specific sign of the end of the
age which is the great tribulation (Matt 24:21). He said to His disciples,
“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by
Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him
understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains” (Matt
24:15-16). Here He is predicting a specific event so clear and so obvious
that it will serve as a signal to Israel to flee to the mountains. The event
will not be something vague, but it is identified as a prophetic event
predicted by Daniel the prophet who called it “the abomination of
Dr Walvoord also writes that...
Most premillennialists also distinguish the coming of Christ for His
church, which is
imminent, and the coming of Christ to establish His
millennial reign upon the earth, which follows well-defined events of
unfulfilled prophecy and is not
It is the viewpoint of the writer that
all three terms (parousia, apokalupsis and
epiphaneia) are used in a general and not a technical sense and
that they are descriptive of both the rapture and the glorious
return of Christ to the earth. (New
Testament Words for the Lord’s Coming)
Greek Nouns and Verbs
The Lord's Return
The following Greek nouns are
used to describe both the Rapture and the Second Coming.
The following Greek verbs are
frequently associated with the references to the return of the Lord. A
survey of the definition of each verb gives a clue as to why they are used
to refer to the return of the Lord. And note that virtually every use is in
indicating that they represent the believer's habitual practice or
lifestyle! A firm belief in the Biblical doctrine of
will stimulate an eager expectancy for the Bridegroom's return. Let us heed
John's warning in his first epistle...
And now, little children, abide in
(Ed: with an attitude of expectancy),
so that when He appears (the doctrine of
we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.
(1 John 2:28)
conveys the sense
of expectant waiting—sustained, patient, trusting waiting. It pictures an
eager looking forward to the coming of one (the One!) whose arrival was anticipated at
any time. (see related hymn
by Charles Wesley
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
- next time you sing it, sing it as a prayer.)
1Thessalonians 1:10 (note)
and to wait (anemeno
= as one's lifestyle which
would certainly affect one's lifestyle!) for His Son from heaven, Whom He
raised from the dead, that is Jesus, Who rescues (rhuomai)
us from the wrath (orge)
waiting assiduously and in great anticipation and patience fully expecting
something to transpire, in this case the return of the Lord!
1 Corinthians 1:7 so that you
are not lacking in any gift,
awaiting eagerly (apekdechomai
= as one's habitual
practice or lifestyle!) the
revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Philippians 3:20 (note)
For our citizenship is in heaven,
from which also we eagerly wait
= as our habitual practice,
yea, even our lifestyle!)
Savior the Lord Jesus
21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the
body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject
all things to Himself.
means to accept favorably, to
receive one into intercourse/companionship, to give access to oneself or
receive to oneself. To wait for
with a sense of expectancy (see notes
(1) Scriptures that Specifically
Refer to the Rapture
Below are representative Scriptures
(not intended to be an exhaustive list) that specifically refer to the Rapture.
There are no Old Testament passages
which specifically prophesy of the Rapture of the Church. Some propose that
the translations of Enoch and Elijah were predictive of or pointed to the NT
Rapture but they still do not specifically prophesy the NT Rapture.
Furthermore, since the church is a mystery not revealed in the OT, it is not
surprising that an event that effects primarily the NT Church would not be
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
1Thessalonians 4:13 (note)
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are
asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus
died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen
asleep in Jesus.
For this we say to you by the
word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the
Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice
of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in
the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the
Therefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Corinthians 15:51-58 - This explains what transpires as
they are caught up in the clouds and meet the Lord in the air...
Behold, I tell
you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 in a moment (Greek = atomos = indivisible), in the twinkling of an eye,
at the last trumpet (not the 7th trumpet in Revelation - see notes
Rev 11:15); for the trumpet will
sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53
For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put
on immortality. 54 But when this perishable will have put on the
imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come
about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. 55 "O
DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" 56 The sting of
death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who
gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved
brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,
knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
2 Thessalonians 2:1
Now we request you,
brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ, and our gathering
together (episunagoge) to Him.
Comment: This passage is a clear
reference to the Rapture which Paul had taught about in his first letter.
(Jesus to His
disciples) Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in
Me. 2 In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I
would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and
prepare a place for you, I will come (Literally "I am coming" =
again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
In the very shadow of His teaching on the Cross, the Lord Jesus Christ
reveals the truth that God had another purpose He would fulfill before
bringing in the
also known as the Messianic Age, that glorious age His Jewish disciples
longed to see consummated. Here in John 14, Christ told the disciples that
He was going to leave, go to heaven, prepare a place for them in heaven, and
come back to receive them to Himself. In other words, Jesus was teaching
that before He fulfilled His purpose to bring in the Messianic Kingdom, He
would first take them to dwell with Him in the Father’s house in heaven
before His return to the earth. This truth was not fully comprehended by
early Christians, even as it is not understood by many today, but for those
who did grasp it, this truth inspired an attitude of eager anticipation and
longing for His return.
Dr. Thomas Ice feels that the following passages speak
primarily of the Rapture writing that...
the New Testament teaches that
Christ’s coming in the clouds to rapture His church is
1:7; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 1:10; Titus 2:13; Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 1:13; Jude 21;
cf. Matt. 24:45-47; Mk. 13:33-37; Lk. 12:35-40), an event that could
have taken place at any time during the last 2,000 years. (Conservative
Theological Journal 4:12, August, 2000, page 172)
Comment: I respect Dr Ice's
considerable knowledge and writing in the field of eschatology but I do not
think that all of the passages he mentions can unequivocably be identified
as referring to the Rapture. For that reason I have chosen to include many
of these passages in the third category (click
in which the distinction between the Rapture and the Second Coming is not
absolutely clear cut.
(2) Scriptures that Specifically
Refer to the Second Coming
Below are representative Scriptures
(not an exhaustive list) that specifically refer to the Second Coming.
This Second Coming is predicted in
Daniel 2:44 in Daniel's interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream...
And in the days of those kings (the 10
kings and their kingdoms that exist at the end of this present age) the God
of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that
kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to
all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. (See Dr Walvoord's
Daniel 7:13-14 is also a
prophecy which alludes to the Second Coming, Daniel recording that...
I kept looking in the night visions, and
behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He
came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. And to Him was
given dominion, glory and a kingdom (the Millennial Kingdom), that all the
peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is
an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one
which will not be destroyed. (See Dr Walvoord's exposition of
Before the LORD, for He is coming;
For He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in
righteousness, and the peoples in His faithfulness.
Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of
Zion (speaking of Israel); for behold I am coming and I will dwell (Hebrew =
shakan the root word of "Shekinah", in the form of which God dwelt in the
midst of Israel in days of old) in your midst," declares the LORD.
And I will pour out on the house of David
and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of
supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they
will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep
bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born.
Comment: This is when "all Israel
will be saved" (the 1/3 remnant) - for more detailed discussion see notes
Behold, a day is coming for the LORD when
the spoil taken from you will be divided among you (speaking of Israel). 2
(How will this transpire?) For I (Jehovah) will gather all the nations
against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses
plundered, the women ravished, and half of the city exiled, but the rest of
the people will not be cut off from the city. 3 Then (be alert to
especially in prophetic literature as it always discloses the sequence of
events) the LORD (Jehovah
- remember that Jehovah is
Jesus, eg, compare Jesus' own testimony in John 12:41 with Isaiah 6) will go forth and fight against those nations (the Gentiles), as when
He fights on a day of battle. 4 And in that day (What day? The one just
described in v3) His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives (this fact
substantiates that Christ's Second Coming is a personal, visible and bodily
return to this earth), which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the
Mount of Olives
(the very place of His
- cp Acts 1:9-11) will be split in its
middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the
mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. 5
And you (the Jews who remain alive) will flee by the valley of My mountains,
for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just
as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then
the LORD, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him! (see notes
19:14) 6 And it will come about in
that day that there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle. 7 For it
will be a unique day which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but
it will come about that at evening time there will be light. 8 And it will
come about in that day that living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half
of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea
(see description of the
it will be in summer as well as in winter. 9 And the LORD (Jehovah - Jesus)
will be king over all the earth (see note
Revelation 19:16); in that day the
LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one.
Comment: This Second Coming of
Christ, Jehovah/Jesus, described in this passage gives additional detail of
the same event described in
Revelation 19:11ff - see notes).
For the Son of Man is going to come in
the glory of His Father with His angels; and WILL THEN RECOMPENSE EVERY MAN
ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.
For I say to you, from now on you shall
not see Me until you say, 'BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'
Comment: At the second
coming of Christ, Israel will recognize and welcome their rejected Messiah
as described above in Zechariah 12:10.
And as He was sitting on
the Mount of Olives, the disciples came
to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and
what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age
(the age they were living in and which we are still in but which is be
followed by the next age which is often referred to as the Messianic Age
when God fulfills His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, especially the
promises of the land?”
Matthew 24:27-30 (cp Mark
13:24-26, Luke 21:25-27)
For just as the lightning comes from the
east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming (parousia)
of the Son of Man be. 28 "Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures
will gather. 29 "But immediately after the tribulation of
those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT,
AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be
shaken, 30 and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and
then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF
MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory (In contrast
to His first coming in which His glory was hidden, His second coming is with
the full glory of His deity). 31 "And He will send forth His angels with A
GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds,
from one end of the sky to the other. (See Dr
Walvoord's exposition of
Comment: This passage from
the Lord's Olivet Discourse is a clear prophetic promise of His Second
Coming after the
Dr Walvoord commenting on Matthew 24, Christ's Olivet
Christ will come in fulfillment of His
promise given by the angels in Acts 1:11, “This same Jesus…shall so come in
like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” In the ascension He went to
heaven bodily. He is coming back bodily. He went gradually; they watched
Him. He is coming back majestically and they will be able to watch Him. He
went with clouds, and when He comes back He will come with clouds. He went
visibly, and when He returns every eye will see Him.
Taken as a whole, the events which Christ describes leading up to and
climaxing in His second coming will be unmistakable when they occur. While
Christians today may anticipate the
coming of Christ in the
rapture, it is obvious that the second coming to the earth cannot be
fulfilled until the preceding events have come to pass.
With these words, Christ brings to a close the first doctrinal section in
which He predicted events to come. There follows a series of illustrations
and applications as the theological truth is related to practical
considerations for all those who await His coming. (Christ’s
Olivet Discourse on the End of the Age—Part III: Signs of the End of the Age
- Matthew 24:15-31)
For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of
and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all
away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.
Comment: Note that this is
not a passage supporting the Rapture ("took them all away"), because
those taken away are not taken to the bosom of the Lord but to the
bottom of Sheol where they will await final sentencing which occurs at
the Great White Throne judgment after the Millennium.
Jesus said to him, "You have
said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see THE
SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE
CLOUDS OF HEAVEN."
2 Thessalonians 1:7
and to give relief to you who
are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be
revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire
Comment: The fact His mighty
angels are with our Lord, leaves little doubt that this is a clear prophecy
of Christ's Second Coming to judge and wage war. (see note
2 Thessalonians 2:8
And then that lawless one (Antichrist)
will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and
bring to an end by the appearance (epiphaneia)
of His coming (epiphaneia);
BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and
every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of
the earth will mourn over Him. Even so. Amen. (see note
(note) And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a
white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in
righteousness He judges and wages war.
12 And His eyes are a flame of fire, and upon His head are many diadems; and
He has a name written upon Him which no one knows except Himself.
13 And He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood; and His name is called The
Word of God.
14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and
clean, were following Him on white horses.
15 And from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may smite the
nations; and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine
press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.
16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, "KING OF KINGS,
AND LORD OF LORDS."
17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried out with a loud
voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, "Come, assemble for
the great supper of God;
18 in order that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders
and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on
them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and
19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies,
assembled to make war against Him who sat upon the horse, and against His
20 And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed
the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the
mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown
alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.
21And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him
who sat upon the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.
(3) Scriptures that Could Refer
The Rapture and/or the Second Coming
Below are a few representative
Scriptures that are somewhat ambiguous as to whether they
refer specifically to the Rapture or to the Second Coming.
Note that in the comments, some of these verses do seem to favor the Rapture over the
Second Coming (or vice versa), but the passage (and context) is not
absolutely specific. See the example of Titus
2:11-13 which compares the "variegated" interpretations of multiple well
known commentators (click
here). A similar
study could have been presented for many of the passages in this category.
As I have studied these passages and
what the commentators have said about each passage, the wide divergence of
opinions by excellent expositors is very striking and unpredictable. One
comes away with a sense not that the Lord is trying to confuse us but that
these passages cannot easily be "pigeon holed" because our Lord wants all
believers, whether before the Rapture or after the Rapture and before the
Second Coming to live motivated and encouraged/comforted by the sound
doctrine that He will return for His own. Such an "interpretation" would be
very compatible with our Lord's last uttered words...
He who testifies to these things says, "Yes,
I am coming quickly." Amen.
Come, Lord Jesus.
And all God's children echo John's
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to
be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
19 For the anxious longing
of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but
because of Him who subjected it, in hope
21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to
corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of
childbirth together until now.
23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the
Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for
our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for
why does one also hope for what he sees?
25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait
eagerly for it.
Comment: When we as sons of God be revealed? When will the redemption
of our body be consummated? When Christ returns His children
will share His glory. Ponder that incomprehensible truth. Let it work its
way into your control center, your heart. Let it satisfy your soul. Let it
stimulate, motivate and empower your walk of holiness today... and the
next... and the next. It is God's glorious hope which is like a balm to our
souls in a dark and sin sick world. A better world is on its way and we will
soon be revealed in glory, enabled to enjoy His glorious world in a way that
we can not now fully appreciate.
This revelation of the sons of God and the redemption of our bodies are
promises that will be partially fulfilled at the Rapture (when we as
believers will experience the final, full redemption of our bodies as we
shed these corrupt frames in a moment in exchange for immortal, imperishable
bodies) but most would agree that these promises are most fully consummated at the Second Coming,
at the final revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ when we are revealed with
Him in glory. It is worth noting that there will also be sons of God
(both Jews and Gentiles) who survive the Tribulation and who enter
the Millennial Kingdom in physical bodies and who will also eventually receive
glorified bodies but exactly how and when this takes place is not clear from Scripture.
Ray Stedman explains the
revelation of the sons of God - In other words, this present life in
which we are living is just a school time that we Christians are going
through, and here we have been placed to learn some lessons
are preparing us for the
great day yet to come. And one of these days it is going to be graduation
day -- the day when the sons of God will shed their humble attire and
manifest that they have been princes in disguise all along (Ed note:
synonymous with the apokalupsis or revelation), indwelt by the same
wonderful secret of life that Jesus Christ had when he was here, indwelt by
divine life, a man who is the vehicle of the divine life.
William Newell adds that the
unveiling of glorified saints will be "as when some wonderful statue has been
completed and a veil thrown over it, people assemble for the ‘unveiling’ of
this work of art. It will be as when sky rockets are sent up on a festival
night: rockets which, covered with brown paper, seem quite common and
unattractive, but up they are sent into the air and then they are revealed
in all colors of beauty, and the multitude waiting
below shout in admiration.
Now the saints are wrapped up in the common brown paper of flesh, looking
outwardly like other folks. But the whole creation is waiting for their
unveiling at Christ’s coming, for they are connected with Christ, one with
Him, and are to be glorified with Him at His coming.
1 Corinthians 1:7
that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly (apekdechomai
- in the
= as one's habitual practice - a lifestyle of "looking" for Jesus) the revelation
of our Lord Jesus Christ
Comment: This verse could
refer to the Rapture and/or the Second Coming and commentaries reflect both
views. For example, John MacArthur favors this as a reference to His "Second
Coming"; Thomas Constable favors "the Rapture". I think both are correct
because believers today are looking forward to the
believers who come to faith in the Tribulation will definitely look be
eagerly awaiting His Second Coming to put an end to the Great Tribulation!
But each in his own
order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s
at His coming,
This coming would include saints raised at the Rapture and saints (including OT saints)
who will be resurrected at the time of the Second Coming.
Philippians 3:20 (note)
For our citizenship is in heaven,
from which also we eagerly wait
- in the
= as one's habitual practice - a lifestyle of "looking" for Jesus)
Savior the Lord Jesus
- note) Who will
transform the body of our humble state
into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power
that He has even to subject all things to Himself.
Comment: Because of the mention of
the transformation of the believer's body, this passage is most likely a
reference to the Rapture and that is the interpretative approach of most
conservative, premillennial, evangelical scholars.
1Thessalonians 1:10 (note)
and to wait (anemeno
= as one's lifestyle which
would certainly affect one's lifestyle!) for His Son from heaven, Whom He
raised from the dead, that is Jesus, Who rescues (rhuomai)
us from the wrath (orge)
Comment: In the context of this
epistle in which Paul was writing to believers whom he knew were waiting for
Jesus to return from heaven, this reference is most likely to the Rapture
(John MacArthur favors this interpretation - he makes the point that the
fact that they were waiting indicates the imminency of the deliverance)
however one could not absolutely exclude that it refer so the Second Coming
(favored by the KJV Bible Commentary) for their will be those saints who
lived during the Tribulation who led others to Christ and their joy will be
those eternally saved men and women they were privileged to have a part in
leading to faith in Christ.
Spurgeon takes a middle ground
declaring: "Oh! This is a high mark of grace, when the Christian expects his
Lord to come, and lives like one that expects Him every moment. If you and I
knew to-night that the Lord would come before this service was over, in what
state of heart should we sit in these pews? In that state of heart we ought
For who is our
hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the
presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?
Comment: In the context
of this epistle in which Paul was writing to believers whom he
knew were waiting for Jesus to return from heaven, this reference
is most likely to the Rapture (John MacArthur favors this
interpretation) however one could not absolutely exclude that it
refer so the Second Coming for their will be those saints who
lived during the Tribulation who led others to Christ and their
joy will be those eternally saved men and women they were
privileged to have a part in leading to faith in Christ.
so that He may
establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and
Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.
Comment: Most commentators
(MacArthur, Constable, McGee) favor this as a reference to the Rapture
but a few references (KJV Bible Commentary, Nelson's New Illustrated
Bible Commentary) state that Paul refers to the Second Coming in this
John Walvoord writes that
"This verse is commonly related to the Rapture of the church, that
when Christ comes He will find His church on earth, serving Him
effectively. The passage could, however, also be taken in regard to
the arrival in heaven of those caught up at the Rapture. In heaven
their holiness and faithfulness to God will be especially evident
before God the Father and before saints and angels. Paul was not
advocating here sinless perfection as something that could be attained
in this life, but he does hold that it is possible for a Christian to
live in such a way that he will manifest his desire to serve the Lord
and be blameless in what he is doing." (Walvoord, J. F. The Prophecy
Knowledge Handbook. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books)
Now may the God of
peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul
and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our
Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Timothy 6:14
that you keep the commandment without stain or
reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ
Comment: Although one cannot state
dogmatically, this reference addressing believers [cp "To Timothy"] appears
to speak of Christ's return to remove His
Bride, the Church, at the Rapture.
Undoubtedly for those believers who come to Christ during the Seven Year
Seventieth Week - a "Week" of 7 Years)
and especially the last 3.5 years of the
this verse has application and in their case would refer to the Second
Coming. Note that the idea of
is also implied by this verse.
2 Timothy 4:1
charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the
living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom.
Comment: Because of the mention of appearing and kingdom in the same
context, this verse appears to be more likely a reference to the Second
Coming followed immediately by the Messianic Kingdom.
2 Timothy 4:8
future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord,
the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me,
but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Given the fact that the phrase that day relates to rewarding of a crown,
this passage seems to favor the Rapture, for most evangelical commentators
feel that the
or Judgment Seat of Christ follows the Rapture and
precedes the Second Coming.
Titus 2:13 (note)
looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our
great God and Savior, Christ Jesus
more detailed discussion below.
Hebrews 9:28 (note)
And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes
judgment, 28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the
sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to
sin, to those who eagerly await (apekdechomai
- in the
= as one's habitual practice - a lifestyle of "looking" for Jesus) Him.
Comment: This passage appears to speak primarily of Christ's Second
Coming. However in view of the verb "eagerly await" there is a sense in
which His return is pictured as imminent, and this would speak of the
Rapture for those believers who live prior to the Tribulation. In addition
"a second time for salvation" is a description of our "future tense
salvation" or glorification, an event that will be experienced by some
saints at the Rapture and for others who come to faith in the Tribulation
their glorification will be realized at His Second Coming. Once again, it
seems the predominant idea is that God wants His children "future focused",
for such "heavenly" looking motivates sound godly living.
Ray Stedman: This is the only place in the New Testament where the
return of Christ is called a second coming. During His first coming,
He dealt with the problem of human sin on the cross; at His second coming
the full effect of that sacrifice will be manifested in the resurrection (or
“transformation”—1 Cor 15:51-52) of the bodies of those who wait for Him.
(Stedman, R. C. (1992). Hebrews. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series.
Downers Grove, Ill., U.S.A.: InterVarsity Press) (Bolding added)
Barton: The imagery behind the picture of Christ appearing a second
time to bring salvation gets its force from the Day of Atonement, when the
priest stood (appeared) before the people, then disappeared inside the Most
Holy Place to present the blood on the mercy seat. (Ed: And the
people waited eagerly, anxiously, expectantly for his appearing). Then the
priest came out (a second time) and proclaimed forgiveness on the people. So
Jesus appeared on our behalf the first time. When he returns, he will
proclaim the full benefits of salvation. “Those who are waiting for him”
conveys a warning, reminding the readers to remain faithful to Christ during
their time of testing and persecution on earth. (Barton, B. B., Veerman, D.,
Taylor, L. C., & Comfort, P. W. Hebrews. Life application Bible Commentary.
Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers)
Constable: When the Lord returns at the Rapture all Christians
will enter into His presence... (Tom Constable's Expository Notes on the
Bible) (Bolding added)
Wiersbe: When the high priest disappeared into the tabernacle on the
Day of Atonement, the people waited outside expectantly for him to reappear.
Perhaps God would refuse the blood and kill the high priest. What joy there
was when he came out again! And what joy we will have when our High Priest
appears to take us to our eternal holy of holies, to live with Him forever!
(Wiersbe, W. W. Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Wheaton,
Ill.: Victor Books)
Be patient therefore,
brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits
for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it,
until it gets the early and late rains. 8 You too be
patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at
hand. 9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another,
that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is
standing right at the door.
Comment: Note that all 3
passages allude to the imminent return of Christ. However
depending on which commentary you consult, you will find some
writers consider this a reference to the Second Coming and others
to the Rapture.
MacArthur: The second
coming of Christ. Realizing the glory that awaits them at Christ’s
return should motivate believers to patiently endure mistreatment
Frank E. Gaebelein:
James “does not treat the subject at length. He simply declares
it as an inescapable fact, emphasizing, as he does so, its
imminence. (Frank E. Gaebelein, The Practical Epistle of James,
When this verb is used of time, it speaks of imminence. James
tells us that this blessed event of the second coming of the Lord
will come any time, is imminent… Our hearts will be propped up if
we live in the constant expectation of His coming. (Spiros
Zodhiates, The Patience of Hope. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans
Publishing Company, 1960)
(Bibliotheca Sacra 102:407 July 1945 p. 367): Parousia meaning
“presence,” occurs 24 times, 16 of which refer to our Lord’s
return... (and) 8 describe that aspect of His return connected
with rewards, commonly called the Rapture (1 Cor 15:23; 1 Thess
2:19; 4:15 ; 5:23 ; 2 Thess 2:1; James 5:7, 8; 1 John
verbs translated “at hand” (v 8) and “standing” (v. 9) are
in the perfect tense and indicative mood, meaning that each of
these verbs refers to an action that was completed before James
wrote his epistle and that continues on in that completed state.
The implication is that Christ’s coming drew near before James
wrote his epistle, and His coming continues to be near. In
addition, Christ as judge began to stand before the door before
James wrote his epistle, and Christ as judge continues to stand
before the door. In other words, Christ’s coming was imminent in
New Testament times and continues to be imminent. James wanted to
impress his readers with the fact that Christ could come through
the door at any moment and cause them as Christians to stand
before Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ. He could do so today.
(Showers, R. E.. Maranatha Our Lord, Come! Bellmawr, New Jersey:
The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc)
1 Peter 1:7 (note)
that the proof of
your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though
tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the
revelation of Jesus Christ
Comment: This verse could
refer to the Second Coming at the end of the Great Tribulation, but it
could also refer to the revelation of Jesus when
He returns to Rapture His Bride and rescue her from all affliction and
adversity, following which there will be a time of reward at the
John MacArthur interprets this as a
reference to the Second Coming whereas Thomas Constable favors this as a
reference to both the Rapture and the Second Coming.
1 Peter 1:13 (note)
your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the
grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Comment: This could refer to
the Rapture (J Vernon McGee favors this interpretation), but it would be difficult to exclude the possibility that
it refers to the Second Coming at the end of the Great Tribulation (John
MacArthur favors this later view). Again we see the difficulty of separating
the Rapture from the Second Coming and it is quite reasonable to interpret
that both events are in view in this verse.
1 Peter 4:13 (note)
but to the
degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that
also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.
Comment: This could refer to
the Rapture, but probably more likely
refers to the Second Coming at the end of the Great Tribulation (John
MacArthur favors this view). Thomas Constable interprets this as most likely
a reference to both the Rapture and the Second Coming.
2 Peter 1:16 (note)
For we did not follow
cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and
coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His
Comment: This is an
interesting verse for some conservative commentators (Thomas
Constable, J Vernon McGee) feel this passage refers to the first
coming (and Jesus' transfiguration) but a others (John MacArthur,
Henry Morris) feel it speaks of His Second Coming! MacDonald
deftly includes both an allusion to the transfiguration and the
Second Coming explaining that "The Transfiguration was a preview
of Christ's coming in power to reign over all the earth (Ed: "The
Second Coming)" (Ref)
2 Peter 3:4
and saying, “Where is the
promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all
continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”
Comment: In the context of a world which rejects Christ's
Second Coming, this verse would appear to favor the Second
Coming or Christ's return at
the end of the Tribulation to judge the earth and establish His
2 Peter 3:12 (note)
looking for and hastening
the coming of the day of God, on account of which the
heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt
with intense heat!
See comment on 2 Peter 3:4 above.
1 John 2:28
And now, little children,
abide in Him, so that when He appears (phaneroo), we may have confidence and
not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.
Comment: Although one cannot state dogmatically, this
reference appears to speak primarily of Christ's return to rescue
His Bride, the Church, at the Rapture, especially since it seems
to convey a sense of
imminency (or the idea that He could return at any moment
so guard your heart and watch the steps of your feet!). Undoubtedly for those
believers who come to Christ in the Tribulation/Great Tribulation,
this verse has direct application, for they too must seek to
continually abide in Christ.
1 John 3:2-3
Beloved, now we
are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We
know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him
just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies
himself, just as He is pure.
See comment above on 1 John 2:28. Again the practical point is that if
believers really believe they might see Him any day, they would (or should)
be motivated to live in the reality of His
keep yourselves in the love
of God, waiting anxiously (prosdechomai
= as your lifestyle or the habit of your life) for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal
Comment: Some commentators (John
MacArthur) feel this refers to Christ's Second Coming, but others (J Vernon
McGee, E. Pentecost in Bible Knowledge Commentary) favor this as a reference
to the Rapture. Certainly if one is continually waiting anxiously for the Lord's return,
it would serve to motivate one to keep one's self in the love of God, an
application which might favor the this as a reference to the Rapture, but
certainly does not exclude those saints who come to faith in the time of the
Tribulation, which there will be considerable pressure not to keep one's
self in the love of God.
THE RETURN OF THE LORD
Dr John Walvoord articles relating
to various aspects of the return of Christ...
The Future Work of Christ — Part I: The
Coming of Christ for His Church
The Future Work of Christ — Part II: The
Church in Heaven
The Future Work of Christ — Part III:
Christ’s Coming to Reign
The Future Work of Christ — Part IV: The
Millennial Kingdom and the Eternal State
Armageddon And The Second Coming Of Christ
Matthew 25:31-36 The Judgment of the
Dr S Lewis Johnson has several
transcripts that relate to the Rapture and/or the Second Coming (Pdf)...
Daniel 9:24-27 The Tribulation - General
Dt 4:25-31, Jer 30:5-7, Da 12:1, Zec
13:8-9, Rev 12 - Israel and the Tribulation
John 14:1-3 The Certainty of the Second
1 Thess. 4: 13-18 The Resurrection of the
1 Corinthians 15 The Translation of the
Revelation 3: Church and Tribulation
1 Corinthians 3 The Judgment Seat of
Zech 14:1-7, Mt 24:29-31, Isa 27:12-13,
Rev 19 - The Second Coming of Jesus Christ
What Can We Know About The Second Coming?
- RBC Booklet - Pdf
Just Before Heaven: The Judgment Seat Of
- RBC Booklet
(Friends for Israel Ministry) - The
Imminent Coming of Christ
Gerald Stanton - The Doctrine of Imminency - Is It
Robert Thomas -
Imminence in NT esp Paul's Thessalonian Epistles - in depth analysis of the
doctrine of imminence in The Master's Seminary Journal
John MacArthur - Is Christ's Return Imminent?
F Stitzinger - Rapture in 20 Centuries of Biblical Interpretation
Robert L Thomas - Imminence in the NT, Especially
Paul's Thessalonian Epistles
Regarding the timing of the Rapture see...
Pre-, Mid- or Post-Tribulation