We all know that there are two comings of Christ mentioned in the bible. Today I'd like to expand on the second and show from scripture that there are at least four phases to His second coming.
As we have seen from previous messages, a simple comma in the text is often significant and may represent a long period of time. To demonstrate why the scriptures were written in this way, imagine looking up at a distant star. With the naked eye, it appears as one single dot in a sky of black. Now imagine holding a powerful telescope up and looking at the same dot. Now it appears as actually several smaller dots of light. The closer you could get to the lights, the more details you would distinguish and the distance between the lights would grow until they were quite significant. This is often the way it is with prophecy. Here is an example:
6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
This is like the distant star, the Lord Jesus Christ's birth and subsequent kingdom appear as if they will occur together. As we know, there has already been a gap of over 1900 years and the second part of these verses has not yet happened.
Here is another example:
1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
As we know, the Lord quoted from this exact passage in Luke 4:17-21 but stopped short of the reference to the "day of vengence of our God". As it was mentioned last week, that comma has so far represented over 1900 years of grace. We also know that if Israel had accepted their king then there would not be a church age or the gap of 1900 plus years of grace.
Other examples can be found in Zechariah 9:9-10, Luke 1:31-33 etc.
We shall now look closely at the second coming of Christ. Many people do not really know what this term refers to. Some think it is the rapture while others say it is when Christ returns to earth, ie touches down on the Mount of Olives to set up His physical kingdom on earth.
Actually, the second coming of Christ can be divided into at least four parts, William McDonald in his book "Here's the Difference" describes these phases as: The beginning, the course, the manifestation and the climax.
The words translated as "coming" in the new testament include:
As you can see, the first is to do with revelation while the second is primarily focused on presence. The first may be used in the context of a sudden appearance while the second indicates a continuance of presence. It is important to see which word is used as it gives us an indication of whether we should expect events to happen during a time of Christ's presence on the earth or whether we should expect instantaneous events at His appearing. Another way of saying this is, should we understand the coming of the Lord to mean an initial coming to earth or should we understand it to mean a coming and subsequent presence.
The context of the verses usually indicates which way we should interpret this word and in most cases in reference to the second coming, we will see that it is a prolonged presence that is meant.
As mentioned above, the second coming has four phases:
While these events are taking place in heaven the earth will be experiencing a time of tribulation. This will be a period of approximately seven years during which God will pour out judgments of ever-increasing intensity upon the earth (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:4-28; Rev. 6-19). The last half of the period is known as the Great Tribulation; it will witness distress and disasters of unprecedented severity (Matt. 24:15-31).
The rapture and Bema seat as well as other events which believers are involved with are often referred collectively to as "the day of Christ". One exception is found in 2 Thess 2:2 McDonald says that this should really be "the day of the LORD" as it refers to judgment and tribulation and every other references to "the day of the LORD" in scripture refers to judgment particularly involving Israel, including the Great Tribulation mentioned above. References to "the day of Christ" or "the day of the Lord Jesus Christ" are all in reference to the hope of the believer, the believer's reward etc.
Here are some examples:
We learn something very important from our look at the phases of Christ's second coming, especially when realising what is meant by "the day of the LORD": We learn that it is this judgment which will come on that generation like a thief in the night and not the rapture. Why should the rapture take Christians in this church age by surprise? Afterall, isn't it our hope? Since it is not about our salvation, we cannot work for that, the blessed hope of the church could come at any time but it is to the generation who will fear His coming to which it will apply.
"But," someone may ask, "How do you know that the first and third stages, the Rapture and Revelation, are separate events?" The answer is that they are differentiated in the Scriptures in the following ways:
In conclusion, we must carefuly examine scriptures in reference to Christ's second coming. Tradition has confused things for too long. The truth is made clear when you distinguish the day of Christ from the day of the LORD and when you compare the rapture and manifestation (or revelation) as compared above. We have a blessed hope, we are not appointed to wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:8-11). Chapters such as Matthew 24 have wrongly been applied to us for too long. Careful reading will leave no room for doubt or confusion.
In all of the above discussion, the thing which concerns us immediately is how we spend our lives here on earth until the rapture.
10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;
(Recommended reading: "Here's the Difference" by William McDonald.)
J Stephen 15/3/98