MYTH 6: THE RAPTURE, THE RAPTURE, THE RAPTURE!
6.1 A MOST POPULAR DOCTRINE
Of all of the false doctrines from which we had to choose, this one had the most popularity associated with it. For that reason our first inclination was to avoid undue prejudice by not even discussing it. However, the more that we learn about denominational teachings on the rapture, the more we are convinced that (1) it is becoming the central drawing card of denominationalism, and (2) it is one of the most vulnerable doctrines in that it is totally without scriptural basis. Thus, it would be somewhat cowardly to dodge it just because it is so popular.
A problem arises when attempting to deal with this doctrine, since it is impossible to pin down. Not having a scriptural foundation, those who are prone to bind their speculations each have a different twist, so there are as many variations on the rapture teachings as there are false teachers to expound it. This tends to get quite frustrating when attempting to address the issues raised by it.
The author has made every attempt to ascertain the scriptures which are alleged to prove the general theory of premillinialism, and the ones given will be addressed in this chapter. However, it has been our observation that the false teachers prey more on their disciples ignorance of the New Testament than they do on their knowledge of it. A scripture which indeed deals with the second coming of Christ is read, but the conclusions drawn have little relevance to that scripture. For example, recently we were watching a popular religious TV program where it was stated that definitive biblical proof of the rapture would be given. The only proof text given, however, was John 14:1-3:
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if [it were] not [so], I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, [there] ye may be also.
From this all kinds of detail were surmised with regard to Jesus coming, the removal of the saints from the world for a short time, a second appearance, etc., etc. In fact, the preacher did not even present the clear truth taught in John 14:1-3; he just asserted his imagination as to how things ought to be.
Now we are hasty to admit that just because one (or a million) false teacher(s) do something obviously wrong, does not disprove their entire set of doctrines. In fact, very few false teachers manage to get it all wrong. However, it is this type of speculative binding of the imaginary that takes the emphasis away from the very clear doctrines on the moral aspects of the individual Christian life and the true work of the Lord's church. For, as long as we are engaged in speculation, we have little interest in learning the truth -- indeed we tend to ridicule it as being intuitive and trivial.
Since there are so many variation of rapture and 1000-year-reign doctrines, we cannot possibly hope to address them all. However, this is not necessary. In this chapter we will present all of the scriptures which we have found that deal with the second coming of Jesus. The intent is to determine exactly what will happen when that event occurs. We will address only one aspect of the doctrine, as expressed by the following question: will Jesus come to this earth at some time in the future and establish a literal kingdom which will last for 1000 years?
Premillinialists generally teach
that this is the case, and most of them further assert that this kingdom
will be a restoration of the literal kingdom of Israel centered at Jerusalem.
But we dare go no further for fear that someone will deny some of the details
that we might attribute to the belief. No matter; premillinialism rises
and falls on whether the bible supports the concept of Jesus coming back
to earth to establish a literal kingdom. If we demonstrate that this is
a false doctrine, it will subject all such speculation to further investigation.
Hopefully, this will lead many to recognize that we do not need to add
to God's word for whatever reason (2 John 9).
6.2 A PROPOSED SCENARIO
There will be a large number of scriptures presented below -- in fact all that we know which related to the events surrounding the second coming of Jesus and the judgment. (If we have omitted any which in any way changes our conclusions, we seek your help and pledge to make corrections.) We recognize that there are a wide range of false teachings which might exist in many readers' minds which will be contradicted by these scriptures. This section presents a simple scenario which will not be contradicted. We present it here without scriptural reference. However, as the scriptures are presented below, we will determine whether or not it is true. Do not accept it as reality at this point, but test it against the scriptural references presented to determine for yourself if it is valid.
First let us define what we mean by the second coming (also translated presence) of Jesus. This is important for we have not found this term used in the New Testament. We define Jesus' first coming as being when He was born of a virgin and lived for thirty some-odd years in human form on this earth, about 2000 years ago. His physical life was ended by a brutal crucifixion. However, he was resurrected and appeared to many people for 40 days, after which he ascended into heaven. While on this earth he promised on many occasions that he would come again. We will see that while the commonly popular "second coming" terminology does not appear in the New Testament, the identical concept is conveyed by Jesus terminology in John 14:3, which we quoted above: " And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself ..."
The synopsis of this second coming is based upon these promises as well as the revelation given to the apostles which are written in the New Testament. The proposed scenario of the second coming of Jesus which we will evaluate is as follows:
1. Jesus' second coming could be at any time and we should always be ready for it.
2. Jesus' imminent physical recognition (presence) will be signalled by the voice of an archangel and the trumpet of heaven. It will be an event that is obvious to all people on the earth.
3. Jesus will appear in the clouds.
4. This will be followed almost immediately by a general resurrection of both the just and the unjust.
5. The righteous dead will be caught up with Jesus in the air, after which those saved who are still alive will also be caught up; this, by definition, will be a separation of the saved from the lost, who will remain on the earth.
6. The righteous will live with Jesus, His father and the Holy Spirit forever in heaven.
7. The lost will be cast alive into the lake of fire where they will ever be doomed with the devil and his angels.
We will show that these seven points are totally supported by the New Testament in the sections below. While this is not an exhaustive list of all of the details of judgment, the proof of this scenario contradicts all of the scenarios of premillinialism. There is no space for a thousand year reign on this earth or any of the other events which are speculated to occur on or around the judgment.
Again, we urge the reader to be totally skeptical of this scenario. We are not trying to prejudice the reader into a preconceived viewpoint. Read the scriptures presented below and determine for yourself if this is consistent with them or if some alternative is more plausible. Extend your study to read the context of the scriptures given to assure that we are not misapplying them. Finally, search the scriptures to assure that there are no other significant teachings on the second coming which we have omitted.
With this, we will begin our study
of the New Testament teachings with regard to the second coming of Christ.
As before, we will proceed generally from the milk to the meat by starting
with the gospels, proceeding through Acts and the letters to the churches,
and concluding with the book of Revelation.
6.3 SCRIPTURAL VIEW OF JUDGMENT
6.3.1 THE GOSPELS
There are a number of references to judgment in the book of Matthew, but the first reference which deals with the events which will take place at the end of time is given in Mat. 13:47-50: "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." Note that the timing of this event is at "the end of the world." It is important for us to determine if there is a 1000 year reign, and, if so, whether it occurs before or after this event.
The next mention of the second coming by Matthew is in Matthew 24. Verses from this chapter are often taken out of context, and admittedly, it is difficult to tell whether some of them are talking about the second coming of Christ or the destruction of Jerusalem. However, this should not give us a problem, since our inquiry is limited to an examination of those events which will accompany the second coming. In those which might be questionable, we will see that the premillinialist doctrines are not supported even if we make the assumption that the questionable text is speaking of the second coming.
First, note that there are three issues being considered simultaneously by Jesus as determined in the preface to this chapter (Mat. 24:1-3):
And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to [him] for to show him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what [shall be] the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
Jesus was dealing with: (1) when the destruction of the temple would take place (we know now from history that it was destroyed when Jerusalem was destroyed in about 70 AD), (2) what shall be the sign of Jesus coming, and (3) what shall be the sign of the end of the world. Now, (2) and (3) might be two different things, since the visitation of God's wrath upon Jerusalem can certainly be considered an instance of a coming (or presence) of Jesus. (However, this does not fit our definition, and we will not use the term second coming in that way.) In any event, we need to read this chapter very carefully to attempt to determine just which questions Jesus was addressing in each grouping of verses. We ask the reader to verify that those verses that we do not quote are clearly references to the destruction of Jerusalem.
It appears quite clear that Matthew 24:4-14 have quite general application. They did apply to the destruction of Jerusalem, but they also apply equally as principles of human nature today. We need to take these eternal sayings to heart; but they do not relate directly to our subject.
It is equally apparent that Matthew 24:15-28 applies to the events prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. History tells us the Christians heeded this warning and escaped the city prior to the horrible siege which followed. Indeed, much of the language has no application to the end of the world (e.g., references to those who are with child, and the idea of flight). However, the last few verses are warnings not to believe that anyone at this time is the Christ. He says that many will make that claim, but they should not be believed because (Mat. 24:27-28) "... as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together." This figurative language make it very clear that when Jesus does come again it will not be a hidden, secretive thing that is known only to an elite few, as some false religions are prone to teach. The second coming of Christ will be obvious, which we will see validated by many other scriptures.
The figurative language of the next few verses could be applied either to the destruction of Jerusalem, to the second coming, or both (Mat. 24:29-31): "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." If Jesus was speaking about the second coming then it totally fits the scenario proposed in Section 6.2. The fact that Jesus did not literally "send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet ..." to "... gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" at the destruction of Jerusalem is evidence that these verses are referring to the second coming. However, we would not press the case.
Basically, the remainder of Matthew 24 makes it clear that no person knows or ever will know the time of Jesus second coming until the event actually occurs. It is very rich in inspirational figurative language, and we urge you to read it. The summary admonition is given in the last verse of the chapter (24:44): "Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh."
The language in Matthew 24 has been debated by biblical scholars over the centuries, and it furnishes us with a challenging study which can only build our faith. Regardless of whether you lean toward the destruction of Jerusalem, the second coming of Jesus, an intermixture of both, or dual meanings, one thing is certain: there is absolutely nothing in Matthew 24 which in any way contradicts the scenario which we proposed above. Some of the language reinforces it, if indeed it does apply to the second coming.
Matthew 25:1-30 contains two parables: the ten virgins and the talents. Both of these refer to a time at which a judgment will take place. Those who are judged are judged according to the preparations which they made and according to the abilities which they were given, respectively. There was no second chance, and those who were not prepared suffered extreme distress. Consider the summary verses to the two parables. First Mat. 25:13: "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." Then Mat. 25:30: "And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." It is clear that the discourse of Jesus, which has continued from Matthew 24, has now turned to His second coming and the judgment.
This prepares us for Matthew 25:31-46, which is clearly talking about the second coming and the judgment scene:
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth [his] sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed [thee]? or thirsty, and gave [thee] drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took [thee] in? or naked, and clothed [thee]? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done [it] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done [it] unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did [it] not to one of the least of these, ye did [it] not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Jesus used an example of the fruits of the attitude of love that Christians will possess. It certainly is not exclusive, and the fact that we meet the minimal qualifications given no more guarantees our salvation than the fact that we have failed on so many occasions to meet the minimal qualifications guarantees our damnation. However, what is clear is that we will be judged according to our deeds -- the decisions which we have made while on this earth, which were either motivated by our faith and love for the Lord or our love of ourselves and faith in the teachings of man.
Compare this scene with the proposed scenario given above in Section 6.2. Jesus is clearly talking about his second coming -- "When the Son of man shall come in his glory." There is no mention of any thousand year reign intervening either before or after. The judgment is immediate: "then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth [his] sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left ... And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." Finally, note that the scene takes place "upon the throne of his glory," which is not necessarily on the earth.
Another reference to the second coming occurs shortly afterward when Jesus was accused by the council (Mat. 26:62-64): "And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what [is it which] these witness against thee? But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." Over and over again we hear Jesus saying that when he appears it will be in the clouds. Let us be very attentive to see if there are any scriptures at all that indicate that Jesus will set foot on the earth. (You might recall that this was not in our proposed scenario.)
Mark's and Luke's accounts of Jesus teaching with regard to His second coming reflect Matthew's very closely. Any good reference bible will show the parallel scriptures. We urge the reader to look them up and verify that they confirm what we have presented above.
The gospel of John contains a number of additional teachings of Jesus with regard to His second coming. The first reference is found in John 5:22-29:
For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all [men] should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father which hath sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
Note the following from this passage:
1. Jesus places the timing of the resurrection at the same time as the judgement,
2. "All men who are in the graves shall hear his voice." There will be a general resurrection of all of the dead.
3. The judgment and the resurrection will be very closely connected events: "they that have done ..., unto the resurrection of ..."
Once again, there is no contradiction with the scenario presented in Section 6.2.
The next reference we introduced briefly above (John 14:1-3): "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if [it were] not [so], I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, [there] ye may be also." This was Jesus' last night with His disciples before His crucifixion. He was trying to give them assurance that while He was away from them they would be taken care of. He had a reason for leaving -- to prepare a place for them. He promised "I will come again, and receive you unto myself." We need to be careful that we do not allow false teachers to write things into passages that are not there. This passage gives us very little detail compared to the many others which we have. It is a very reassuring passage, which was Jesus' purpose; however, it tells us very little about the events surrounding Jesus' second coming.
Another reference in John's gospel relates to our subject even though it does not describe the events of the second coming. It does relate to the kingdom (John 18:33-37):
Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
We quote this passage at this time to introduce a fundamental concept with regard to the kingdom. Some premillinialists believe that it was God's purpose to establish a literal kingdom in Jerusalem when Jesus came the first time, but that Jesus failed in this regard. (This theory goes on to speculate that he will establish it upon His second coming.) Such a doctrine flies in the face of Old Testament prophecy which predicted the minutest detail of Jesus' purpose and how He would accomplish it by His death, burial and resurrection. Jesus would have established a worldly kingdom if that had been God's will. In fact, his obedience to God and failure to please the Jews in this regard is exactly what caused his crucifixion. Jesus makes this very clear here: "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight ..." Further, Jesus asserts that He is a king. If so, it is essential that He have a kingdom to rule over (otherwise His kingship would be a sham).
The interrelationship between our
understanding of the nature of the kingdom of heaven and the 1000 year
reign is very important, and we will discuss issues with regard to the
kingdom in a separate section below. At that time we will return to John
6.3.2 THE BOOK OF ACTS
The passage related to the kingdom immediately above provides an excellent introduction to the first reference to Jesus' second coming in the book of Acts. After Jesus' resurrection it appears that the disciples still did not understand what Jesus meant when He said: "My kingdom is not of this world." Consider Acts 1:6-11:
When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
Notice the following:
1. Jesus did not tell them the time of the "restoration of the kingdom." He could not actually answer this question, because the question was improper (like the classical "when did you stop beating your wife?"). Had he given a time, they would have inferred that His concept of the kingdom was identical to their's, which it was not.
2. The response that he did give refers to the day of Pentecost when the first people were commanded to be baptized by His authority and into Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins. This established the church, which is synonymous with the kingdom, as we shall show below.
3. Note the similarity between this reply and the reply that Jesus gave to Pilate in John 18:37: "Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice." Both refocus attention for literal worldly kingdoms to what is really important: the truth. The most important aspect of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was the communication of the truth.
4. Relative to the second coming of Jesus, the two men in white apparel said Jesus "shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."
This is totally consistent with everything that we have established so far.
As you recall, on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the apostles enabling them to preach the gospel as the Lord gave them guidance. A very interesting part of Peter's sermon has to do with the kingdom. He had quoted an Old Testament scripture written by David and was arguing that it applied to Christ, not David (Acts 2:29-36):
Men [and] brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
The following conclusions can be drawn from this passage:
1. David spoke prophetically that one would sit on his throne. Peter said that he was, in fact, speaking about the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection of Christ put Jesus on "the right hand of God exalted," a throne far superior to any that David ever sat on.
2. Jesus is king. He has ascended to the throne. The kingdom, is "not of this world" -- not a political kingdom. Jesus is far above all such rule and authority (Revelation 5).
3. Premillinialism assumes that Jesus will leave this throne and take on a worldly throne for 1000 years. There is certainly no evidence of that here. We need to recognize that Jesus is king now, and that all Christians are citizens of His kingdom.
As we continue our survey of the scriptures which relate with the second coming, we need to seek out and find anything which relates to Jesus coming to this earth and establishing a worldly kingdom. If the bible does not teach it, neither should we.
This is all that we found in the
book of Acts with regard to the second coming.
6.3.3 THE LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES
We will proceed systematically through the epistles in the order that they occur in the New Testament. The first reference in the epistles, and probably the most detailed account of the second coming in the bible, is in 1 Corinthians 15 beginning with verse 20. Clearly there were some in Corinth who denied the resurrection of Jesus. Paul dealt with this in a very systematic way, presenting over a dozen different arguments, the most devastating probably being the argument relative to baptism for the dead (see Section 18.104.22.168). While the arguments supporting the resurrection are not directly related to our subject, many of Paul's arguments are. We will deal with them a paragraph at a time starting with 1 Cor. 15:20-28:
But now is Christ risen from the dead, [and] become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man [came] death, by man [came] also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then [cometh] the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy [that] shall be destroyed [is] death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under [him, it is] manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
This passage details the events at the end of time in considerable detail. Let us note:
1. Christ's resurrection was the forerunner of the resurrection of all Christians who will have died prior to his second coming.
2. The resurrection of Christians will occur "at his coming." There is no intervening time. The very next sentence says: "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father ..."
3. At the end, the judgment, Jesus will have "put down all rule and all authority and power."
4. Jesus reigns now (Rev. 5, Acts 2:29-36, and many other references on the kingdom which we will consider in Section 6.4). To affirm this is one reason that we introduced the concept of the kingdom above. Thus, when it says: "For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet," it is talking about His reign over the universe now. However, while He has total authority and control, he is allowing the events of this world to play themselves out: all enemies are not destroyed yet ...
5. "The last enemy [that] shall be destroyed [is] death." The remainder of the quoted paragraph deals with the relationship between the father and the son.
The next paragraph is 1 Cor. 15:35-41:
But some [man] will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? [Thou] fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other [grain]: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh [is] not the same flesh: but [there is] one [kind of] flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, [and] another of birds. [There are] also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial [is] one, and the [glory] of the terrestrial [is] another. [There is] one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for [one] star differeth from [another] star in glory.
This discussion is actually a preparation to answering the question: "How are the dead raised up?" Recall that the main issue that Paul was addressing was whether or not there was a resurrection. The issues of the second coming are supplementary to convincing them that the resurrection was not already past. In the passage above Paul emphasizes differences which we observe in everyday life in order to open their minds to the fact that something different from what we have ever seen or experienced could certainly occur by the power of God. He uses this foundation in the next paragraph, which answers the questions of the skeptics (1 Cor. 15:42-50):
So also [is] the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam [was made] a quickening spirit. Howbeit that [was] not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man [is] of the earth, earthy: the second man [is] the Lord from heaven. As [is] the earthy, such [are] they also that are earthy: and as [is] the heavenly, such [are] they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
Notice first that there is only one resurrection spoken of by Paul: "the resurrection." Those who apply their physical, worldly reasoning in questioning the ability of God to accomplish the resurrection might just as well question His ability to create the world. This too is preparatory for the teaching with regard to the second coming of Jesus which follows in the next paragraph (1 Cor. 15:51-53):
Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
Note, once again that this corresponds perfectly with the original scenario that we presented in Section 6.2. Please re-read both Section 6.2 and the entire context of 1 Corinthians 15 to verify that this is so. All of the previous verses deal with fundamental facts with regard to the resurrection. The passage given above addresses the chronological events which will occur at the second coming of Christ. Absolutely nothing is said about an intervening 1000-year reign.
For completeness, we present the remainder of 1 Corinthians Chapter 15 to complete the thought. Recall, once again, that the apostle was completing his argumentation in support of the resurrection of the body (1 Cor. 15:55-58):
O death, where [is] thy sting? O grave, where [is] thy victory? The sting of death [is] sin; and the strength of sin [is] the law. But thanks [be] to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
This completes the references to the second coming in the First Corinthian letter.
While the following rather lengthy reference in Paul's second letter to the Christians at Corinth does not add any new information with respect to the events surrounding Jesus' second coming, it does serve to further confirm our understanding of the scriptures presented to this point; it comes from 2 Cor. 4:13 through 2 Cor. 5:10:
We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present [us] with you. For all things [are] for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward [man] is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen [are] temporal; but the things which are not seen [are] eternal.
For we know that if our earthly house of [this] tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in [this] tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing [is] God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
Therefore [we are] always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, [I say], and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things [done] in [his] body, according to that he hath done, whether [it be] good or bad.
Notice that Paul at this point assumes that they understood the events surrounding the second coming ("For we know ..."). Further, he binds the judgment closely to the resurrection, and speaks of these as one event at the coming of Jesus.
The next references are in the letters of Paul to the Thessalonians. It was clear that they had a misunderstanding of the events that were to surround the judgment and second coming of the Lord. We will address these as we read the scriptures. The first is an introductory reference in 1 Thes. 3:11-13: "Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all [men], even as we [do] toward you: To the end he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints." As in the passage in Second Corinthians discussed in the previous paragraph, the teaching is that we need to be faithful to assure that we are blameless when Jesus comes. This infers that the judgment will take place at that time. Further, when Jesus comes, he will come "with all his saints."
This last point was a very significant one for the Thessalonians, for it seems clear that they had an idea that those who were still alive at Jesus coming would have some advantage over those who had died physically prior to that grand event. This would tend to promote additional grieving of those who would lose a loved one. Thus, he comes back to the issue of the second coming in the same letter (1 Thes. 4:13-18):
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive [and] remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
While Paul goes on to further discuss some other aspects of the second coming, let us pause at this point to recognize the following points:
1. It is clear that "sleep" here means those who have died, and specifically here, those who have died while in a saved condition (i.e., in Christ).
2. Those who are alive are the saved ones who survive until Jesus comes again. The word prevent means to go before, or precede, and is so translated in most other versions. So the idea is that those who are still alive will not precede, or have any other advantage over those who have died in the Lord.
3. Note how consistent this is with all accounts which we have studied thus far: "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God." Clearly Paul is describing the second coming of Jesus. All accounts assert that he will appear in the sky, in the air, on in the clouds; but will he set foot on this earth? Read on ...
4. "... and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." This is so clear that any elaboration is merely redundant. All of the saved will be caught up together and live eternally with the Lord in heaven.
5. The words caught up are from the Greek word harpazo, which means to snatch or catch away. This is the only place in the New Testament that can be in any way used to call the second coming of Jesus the rapture. However, the use of this word was never intended. We will not interrupt the thought to deal with this error at this point. Rather, we refer the reader to Section 6.5 below.
Once again we urge the reader to compare this passage against the scenario in Section 6.2. The use of some of the identical words is no coincidence.
This is not the end of the teaching in this context. Let us continue with the next paragraph in First Thessalonians (1 Thes. 5:1-11):
But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as [do] others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
This is the essence of the teaching with regard to the second coming. The most important thing is that we keep ourselves ready and anticipate that it will occur in the very near future. However, to conclude that the arrival was necessarily imminent was something that the Thessalonians erroneously concluded. Paul deals with this false impression in his second letter to them.
There is, however, an introductory paragraph which will give this even greater meaning (2 Thes. 1:3-10):
We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: [Which is] a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: Seeing [it is] a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
This is a very long sentence, but when we look at it one phrase at a time it is not difficult to understand. Let us focus on the parts which deal with the second coming:
1. They were bearing up well under "persecutions and tribulations." Paul stated that it would be "a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you ... when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels ..." We learn clearly from the first paragraph of Chapter 2 (which we will consider next) that this is the identically same event that Paul was discussing in First Thessalonians (discussed immediately above).
2. "... In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ ..." This is a verse that you will not hear quoted very often. Clearly, however, at the very same time that the saved are caught away unto heaven, the lost will suffer the opposite fate in hell. This is as much a description of reality as any other scripture in the bible, and those who ignore it do so at their eternal peril!
3. Speaking of the lost, Paul goes on "... who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day." Clearly, these two events -- the punishment and the glorification -- will occur "when he shall come."
4. Notice the last three words of this passage: "in that day." What day? Clearly this is the day that the Lord will judge the world. What will happen in that day? Read back and notice that both the punishment of the wicked and the glorification "in his saints" will occur in that day. There is no 1000 year period between these two events. If the 1000-year reign were as important as denominational teachers want us to believe today, we wonder why the Holy Spirit did not mention it in any of these scriptures?
As we go on reading into Chapter 2 we see that this is clearly the same event that Paul was describing in First Thessalonians, in which the saints still alive are "caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air." (We observed above that this is where authorization for the concept of the rapture is sought -- see Section 6.6.) Here Paul addresses their misperceptions with regard to the timing of the coming of the Lord (2 Thes. 2:1-12):
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and [by] our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [will let], until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: [Even him], whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Consider the following points with regard to this passage:
1. Paul was concerned that they would be "shaken in mind" and "troubled" because of the delay in Jesus' coming that they were not anticipating.
2. Prior to Jesus' coming there would be "a falling away first..." Paul goes on to describe the apostasy in detail. It is clear that events which coincide with these details occurred during the dark ages. The reformation was an attempt to overcome the domination of this evil.
3. The evil that produced the falling away was already beginning to take its toll. There seems to be a withholding by God to allow the entire New Testament to be revealed. After that the falling away would come.
4. "And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming ..." This is the same single coming that has been described in all of the scriptures that we have cited in this chapter.
5. The verses that follow are quite enlightening, and they explain much about our current situation. He states that the evil one "... is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish ..." The fact that powers, signs and wonders (the three words used to describe miracles in the New Testament) might exist is no guarantee that the one who performs them is from God. Why would God allow such powerful deception? ...
6. "... because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." If this is not frightening to you, you should be gravely concerned. It was Paul's intent to instill within them the knowledge that just because a person is totally convinced of something does not make it reality. The only reliable standard is the eternal word of God.
We apologize for getting a little off the track. To get back on, you might review the scenario given in Section 6.2 once again, and assure that there is not contradiction to it in the passages given above.
A minor reference is given in Paul's second letter to Timothy which is of interest (2 Tim. 4:6-8): "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished [my] course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." "That day" is the day that the "righteous judge" will give Paul his "crown of righteousness," which is figurative of heaven. The fact that Paul links this with the general reward to "all them also that love his appearing" infers that this will occur at the time when Jesus appears again.
Another minor reference is in James 5:7-8 "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." The early Christians understood that there was nothing complicated or mystical about the second coming.
The next major reference is given by Peter. It appears that those to whom he was writing were being ridiculed by skeptics who were saying that the second coming should have already occurred (2 Pet. 3:1-7):
This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in [both] which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as [they were] from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
Note that there is one "day of judgment" in question. Also, the "heavens and the earth, which are now ... are ... reserved unto fire ..." This ties the destruction of the world as we know it with the day of judgment, although admittedly, this is not definitive proof.
Now consider the very next paragraph (2 Pet. 3:8-10):
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
The first statement is obviously a figurative statement -- it is not to be used in conjunction with other figurative statements to draw definitive mathematical calculations. Such is an abuse of scripture. The meaning is clear: time does not have the same meaning to us as it does to the eternal God. He might decide to wait a million years before keeping His promises; or He might decide to keep them today. One thing is sure, however, He will keep every one of His promises! The reason that He delays is given: He is "not willing that any should perish." However, the "day of the Lord will come, and when it does every one of us will experience it. Our prosperity in this life will be irrelevant at that point. Notice the details of the day of the Lord:
1. It will come "as a thief in the night," i.e., as we saw in 1 Thes. 5:1-11 above, this means that many will not be prepared, and as Jesus said in Mt. 24:36: "But of that day and hour knoweth no [man], no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only."
2. What will happen? "... the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."
Now if this happened after a definitive 1000 year reign, it would not be "as a thief in the night." However, this still totally conforms with the scenario which we presented in Section 6.2.
The final paragraph in Peter's sequence is also very enlightening (2 pet. 3:11-13):
"[Seeing] then [that] all these things shall be dissolved, what manner [of persons] ought ye to be in [all] holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
Again, the most important aspect of understanding the teachings on the second coming of Christ is in answering the question: "What manner [of persons] ought ye to be in [all] holy conversation and godliness ...?" The answer is embedded in the question: We ought to live lives such that we are: "Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God."
At that point near the end of time as we know it, "the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat." This describes once again the fate of those who are not "caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thes. 4:17). To the saved, on the other hand, there is the hope of the promise of God: "Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
Does this mean that there will be a 1000-year reign of Jesus on this earth? If so, it will not be on this earth, but on a new earth. If so, we will need to read about its initiation, duration, and termination from other scriptures. If so, it is not taught here. We believe that this is figurative of the entirely transformed existence which we will have which is described in 1 Corinthians 15 (see discussion on this above). In reality, it does not matter where this existence is, and we do not believe that it can even be described in terms of geography or astronomy. [Although it does matter that we do not bind our opinions in an attempt to sway the unstable.] The important thing is that the saved will be taken care of by God and can therefore look forward to this great day of God. Read once again the scenario given in Section 6.2 and assure yourself that no assumptions are being made. All of the details have been presented in the scriptures presented to this point.
An incidental reference to the judgment was made by Jude, apparently to demonstrate to Christians that they must remain faithful unto death (Jude 5-7): "I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." The judgment of the great day is the same judgment that we have read about above, which will occur at the coming of the Lord.
We have progressed from the milk of the word toward the meat. It is important that we do not take difficult scriptures and use them to force the meanings of the easy scriptures. Most of the scriptures quoted above are very straightforward, and those which might be subject to further discussion have absolutely no effect upon the scenario which we are attempting to either confirm, deny, or improve.
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