THE TWO PHASES OF CHRIST'S COMING
In the foregoing chapter we have pointed out that Christ's coming is to consist of two phases. We also briefly pointed out some contrasts. In this chapter we are to discuss this matter more thoroughly.
We regard the fact of the two phases of Christ's coming as the key that is necessary to unlock the meaning of many passages of Scripture. Without a recognition of this fact the passages dealing with this great event are confusing.
1. The first phase will be in the air (1 Thess. 4:15-17); the second phase will be to the earth (Zech. 14:4).
4. At the first phase the righteous will be taken from among the wicked (Matt. 25:6-10; 1 Thess. 4:15-17); at the second phase the wicked will be taken from among the righteous (Matt. 13:40-42).
5. At the first phase the righteous on earth will meet the Lord in the air to go away into Heaven with Him (1 Thess. 4:17; John 14:2); at the second phase they simply enter into the kingdom here on the earth (Matt. 13:43; Matt. 25:34).
7. In connection with the first phase there will be a resurrection, the resurrection of the righteous (1 Thess. 4:15-17); in connection with the second phase there will be no specific resurrection (Matt. 25:31-46).
8. The first phase is ever imminent (Mark 13:35, 36; Jas 5:8; Rev. 22:12); the second phase is to be preceded by certain definite things (Matt. 24:14-29; 2 Thess. 2:1-8).
Even a casual consideration of the foregoing contrasts shows that the two phases of Christ's coming cannot occur simultaneously or in close connection. But note these specific evidences that a period of time will intervene between them:
1. Since at the first phase the righteous will be taken from among the wicked and at the second phase the wicked will be taken from among the righteous (see No. 4 above), it is impossible for the two phases occur in close connection. All the righteous will be taken away at the first phase. Hence there must be sufficient time between the first and second phases for some to be saved.
2. Since at the first phase Christ is to receive His disciples into the "many mansions prepared for them in Heaven (John 14:2) and at the second phase the righteous on earth are to enter into the kingdom on earth (see. No. 5 above), it is again impossible that both phases occur in close connection. Those who enter into the kingdom at the second phase must be saved after the first phase.
3. Since the first phase may occur at any time (so far as man knows) and the second phase must be preceded by specific events (see No. 8 above), they cannot occur in close connection. One is imminent and the other is not. Hence one must be farther away than the other.
4. There must he sufficient time between the two phases for the "Man of Sin" (2 Thess. 2:3) to be revealed and to run his course. He cannot be revealed until the hinderer is taken out of the way (2 Thess. 2:6,7). The hinderer is the Holy Spirit indwelling every saved person (1 Cor. 6:19).
That the Holy Spirit is the hinderer is proved by the personal pronoun that is applied to him and also in two ways by the process of elimination. The only other theory worth considering that has been advanced is that the Roman government was the hinderer. But the Roman government was taken out of the way some fifteen centuries ago, and the "Man of Sin" has not yet been revealed. Moreover the Roman government could not prevent the revelation of such a being as he is represented as being, but would rather contribute toward his revelation. The taking out of the way of the Holy Spirit will be accomplished when Christ takes His people out of the earth, which will be at the first phase of His coming. Sufficient time must elapse, therefore, between the first phase and the second for this monster to run his course, for he is to be destroyed at the second phase (2 Thess. 2:8).
5. Also there must be sufficient time between the two Phases for all the events recorded in Rev. 7:19. This section of Scripture should include chapter six also, no doubt, but we can be sure that it must begin with chapter seven. For in chapter seven we have the sealing of the servants of God on earth, and only Jews are sealed. This shows that the first phase of Christ's coming has taken place already; for, otherwise, there would certainly be some Gentile servant's of God on the earth.
The hundred and forty-four thousand Jews mentioned as being sealed in this chapter are evidently those that will be saved immediately after the appearance of Christ in the air. And then, to confirm this view, immediately following the account of the sealing of these Jews, we have the innumerable multitude in Heaven (Rev. 7:9). These, manifestly, are those that were lifted from the earth at Christ's appearance in the air.
Then the second phase of Christ's coming does not appear until we reach the nineteenth chapter, and there is every evidence of a general chronological order. Thus the events of the intervening chapters are to take place during the interim between the two phases of Christ's coming.
Our opponents scoff at the idea of a period of time between the two phases of Christ's coming. They say we teach that there will be two comings instead of one. They can call it what they will. The New Testament speaks of but one coming, but it clearly reveals that this one coming will consist of two phases, separated by a period of time. We prefer to believe what it teaches, regardless of their perversions.
We have now shown that Christ's coming is to consist of two phases, and that these phases are to be separated by a period of time. We undertake here to prove that the first phase of His coming is imminent. Note that we are not attempting to prove that Christ's coming in judgment and to reign is imminent. So far as we know, all unfulfilled prophecies referring to this age (and there are many), without violence to them or any other Scriptures, may be fulfilled in the interim between the two phases of Christ's coming. They must be fulfilled before the second phase of Christ's coming, but we know of no prophecy that must be fulfilled before Christ comes for His bride.
Webster defines the word imminent as meaning "threatening to occur immediately; near at hand; impending." We maintain that this is exactly the way God has taught in His Word that believers should regard the coming of their Lord to receive them unto Himself. The Scripture teaches that this event is ever "near at hand," and that believers, therefore, should ever be in the attitude of watchful expectancy. Note the following passages:
1. Mark 13:25,36-"Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the Master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrowing, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping." Thayer says that the meaning of watch in this and similar passages is "to take heed, lest through remissness and indolence some destructive calamity overtake one." Can there be any sensible reason for watching for an event, unless, so far as we know, it may take place now?
2. Jas. 5:8-"Be ye also patient, stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh."
The Greek word for "draweth nigh" is in the pluperfect tense, and means, according to Thayer, "has come nigh, is at hand." A similar form of the same word is said by Thayer to be used "concerning things imminent and soon to come to pass." The verb in the above passage is translated "is at hand" nine times in the King James Version. Matt. 26:46 furnishes a good example of its use.
The word in the passage for quickly does not mean suddenly, as some would have it; but it means "quickly, speedily, without delay" (Thayer). Good samples of its use may be found in Matt. 5:25; 28:7, 8; Mark 16:8; John 11:29. In the above passage, the coming of Christ is spoken of as God sees it; and a thousand years is as one day with God (1 Pet. 3:8). And it is so represented that the time of it may be uncertain to believers. So far as they know, it may occur at any moment. Therefore, to them it is ever imminent.
Many passages show the practical value of a belief in the imminent coming of Christ. Prominent among them is Jas. 5:8, as given above. This passage shows that a belief in the imminent coming of Christ is an incentive to patience and strength in the midst of suffering and afflictions.