Embraced  by  Truth . . .
                                    reflections on theology and life

THEOLOGY > Future > End of the Age > Rapture Question > One Second Coming    



Dispensationalism postulates that the Second Coming of Christ will occur in two stages. First, the Lord is coming for the Church (the Rapture); and, second, the Lord is coming with the Church (the Revelation). The first coming will be private, but the second coming will be public. Only the Church will know of the first, but the whole world will know of the second. The first is to catch away the Church from the earth; the second is for the Church to come back to the earth with the Lord. The first finds the Lord stopping in the air with the Church rising to meet Him; the second finds the Lord returning to this earth with the Church to rule and reign. These two stages will be separated by the years of the Great Tribulation. Such are the affirmations of the Dispensationalists.

It should be noted that Dispensationalists refer to the Lord’s coming before the Tribulation as the “Rapture,” and speak of His coming after the Tribulation as the “Second Coming,” “Second Advent,” or simply, the “Return.” Instead of maintaining one coming in two stages, they, therefore, can speak of one Second Coming, preceded seven years earlier by the Rapture. But whether there is one coming in two stages, or a Second Coming preceded by the Rapture, the truth of the matter is that in both of these formats the Lord returns twice. And the problem for the non-dispensationalist is in this two-fold nature of His end-time manifestation.

Scriptures are made to fit this two-part system, with some Scriptures said to be referring to the Rapture while other Scriptures are said to be speaking of the Revelation. For example, when Paul says to Titus that believers are to be “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2:13), the Dispensationalists affirm that this refers to the Rapture, the imminent catching away of the Church by the Lord before the Tribulation. But when John writes in Revelation that “He is coming with clouds, and every eye shall see Him” (1:7), they affirm that this is the Revelation, the public return at the end of the Tribulation. Thus, Scriptures that speak of the Second Coming are divided up, while some are associated with the Rapture others are placed with the Revelation. The challenge, therefore, is to separate properly the passages that refer to the Rapture from the passages that refer to the Revelation. Essential to Dispensationalism is this compartmentalization of Scripture.

The problem with this division of the Scriptures is that they never speak of returns but always the return. They never refer to His comings, but to His coming. The Lord’s return is always, without exception, spoken of in the singular. It is never referred to in the plural. One will search the Scriptures in vain seeking to find the Lord’s Second Coming spoken of in any manner except in the singular. There will not be two returns, three returns, four returns, or more, but only one return. There will not be two stages of the return, just one return. On this the Scriptures are plain and unified. How can anyone pluralize what God has singularized?

In the following passages, regardless of the terminology used, the Second Coming of Christ is always spoken of or referred to in the singular:

    For the Son of Man will come (erchomai) in the glory of His Father (Matt. 16:27);

    What will be the sign of Your coming (parousia) (Matt. 24:3);

    For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming
    (parousia) of the Son of Man be (Matt. 24:27);

    Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear (phaiomai) in heaven, and then all the tribes
    of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming (erchomai) on the clouds
    of heaven with power and great glory (Matt. 24:30; Mk. 13:26; Lu. 21:27);

    so also will the coming (parousia) of the Son of Man be (Matt. 24:37, 39);

    you do not know what hour your Lord is coming (erchomai) (Matt. 24:42; Mk. 13:35);

    the Son of Man is coming (erchomai) at an hour you do not expect (Matt. 24:44);

    you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming (erchomai)
    (Matt. 25:13);

    When the Son of Man comes (erchomai) in His glory (Matt. 25:31; Mk. 13:32);

    You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming (erchomai)
    on the clouds of heaven (Matt. 26:64; Mk. 14:62);

    when He comes (erchomai) in the glory of His Father (Mk. 8:38);

    For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part
    under heaven so also the Son of Man will be in His day (Lu. 17:24);

    Even so it will be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed (apokalupto) (Lu. 17:30);

    In that day (Lu. 17:31);

    When the Son of Man comes (erchomai), will He really find faith on the earth (Lu. 18:8);

    that Day come (ephistemi) on you unexpectedly (Lu. 21:34; “Day” not “Days”);

    I will raise him up at the last day (Jo. 6:40, 44, 54);

    I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day (Jo. 11:24);

    I will come (erchomai) again (Jo. 14:3);

    If I will that he remains till I come (erchomai), what is that to you (Jo. 21:22-23);

    this same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come (erchomai)
    in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven (Acts 1:11; one Ascension and,
    therefore, one return);

    before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord (Acts 2:20);

    waiting for the revelation (apokalupsis) of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:7);

    that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (I Cor. 1:8);

    until the Lord comes (erchomai) (1 Cor. 4:5);

    you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes (erchomai) (1 Cor. 11:26);

    those who are Christ’s at His coming (parousia) (1 Cor. 15:23);

    by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30);

    will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6);

    without offense until the day of Christ (Phil. 1:10);

    that I may rejoice in the day of Christ (Phil. 2:16);

    For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior,
    the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:20);

    when Christ who is our life appears (phaneroo) (Col. 3:4);

    at His coming (parousia) (I Thess. 2:19);

    at the coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints (I Thess. 3:13);

    we who are alive and remain unto the coming (parousia) of the Lord (I Thess. 4:15);

    For the Lord Himself shall descend (katabaino) from heaven (I Thess. 4:16);

    the day of the Lord so comes (erchomai) as a thief in the night (I Thess. 5:2);

    But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake (katalambano)
    you as a thief (I Thess. 5:4);

    be preserved blameless at the coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ (I Thess. 5:23);

    when the Lord Jesus is revealed (apokalupsis) from heaven (II Thess. 1:7);

    when He comes (erchomai), in that Day, to be glorified in His saints (II Thess. 1:10);

    concerning the coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together
    to Him (II Thess. 2:1);

    as though the day of Christ had come (enistemi) (II Thess. 2:2);

    whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness
    (epiphaneia) of His coming (parousia)  (II Thess. 2:8);

    until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing (epiphaneia) (1 Tim. 6:14);

    He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day (II Tim. 1:12);

    that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day (II Tim. 1:18);

    God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead
    at His appearing (epiphaneia) and His kingdom (II Tim. 4:1);

    which the Lord, the righteous Judge will give to me on that Day, and not to me only
    but also to all who have loved His appearing (epiphaneia) (II Tim. 4:8);

    looking for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing (epiphaneia) of our great God
    and Savior Jesus Christ (Tit. 2:13);

    To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear (optomai) a second time,
    apart from sin, for salvation (Heb. 9:28);

    And He who is coming (erchomenos) will come (heko) (Heb. 10:37);

    until the coming (parousia) of the Lord (Ja. 5:7);

    for the coming (parousia) of the Lord is at hand (Ja. 5:8);

    at the revelation (apokalupsis) of Jesus Christ (I Pet. 1:7);

    the grace that is to be brought you at the revelation (apokalupsis)
    of Jesus Christ (I Pet. 1:13);

    when His glory is revealed (apokalupsis) (I Pet. 4:13);

    when the Chief Shepherd appears (phaneroo) (I Pet. 5:4);

    where is the promise of His coming (parousia) (2 Pet. 3:4);

    But the day of the Lord will come (heko) as a thief in the night (2 Pet. 3:10);

    looking for and hastening the coming (parousia) of the day of God (II Pet. 3:12);

    when He appears (phaneroo), we may have confidence and not be ashamed
    before Him at His coming (parousia) (I Jo. 2:28);

    we know that when He is revealed (phaneroo), we shall be like Him (I Jo. 3:2);

    He is coming (erchomai) with clouds (Rev. 1:7);

    Behold, I am coming (erchomai as a thief (Rev. 16:15);

    Behold, I am coming (erchomai) quickly (Rev. 22:7).

From Matthew to Revelation the witness to the Savior’s return is uniform; there are no exceptions. When the Lord’s return is spoken of it is always in the singular; whatever the choice of words the word is never plural. How can anyone fail to grasp the singularity, the oneness of the Lord’s coming spoken of in these passages?

The following points are obvious in the above references. In every passage the words “coming” and “appearing” are singular, thereby teaching that there will be only one return. The word “hour” (Matt. 24:42, 44; 25:13) is associated with His coming, thereby stating that He will come at a specific time, a single time, not two or more different times. The word “day” (Matt. 25:13; Lu. 17:30; 21:34; Jo. 6:40, 44, 54; 11:24; Acts 2:20; I Cor. 1:8; Eph. 4:30; Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16; I Thess. 5:2, 4; II Thess. 1:10; 2:2; II Tim. 1:12; 18; 4:8; 2 Pet. 3:10, 12) is used in connection with His return, teaching that on a specific day, not days, His return will take place. Without exception, the word “day” is always singular. Even if the word “day” is used of the totality of end-time events, the singularity of each event is still understood and implied. His Ascension is used in Acts 1:11 as an example of His return. On a day at an hour He went up; on a day at an hour He will come back. He ascended one time, and He will return one time. In Hebrews 9:28 He is said to be coming “a second time,” meaning that when He lived and died it was the “first time.”  There is no hint of a “third time” or “fourth time,” only “a second time.” All of the above passages speak of the same event, the one time coming of the Lord.

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming (parousia) of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep (I Thess. 4:15).

For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming (parousia) of the Son of Man be (Matt. 24:27).

And the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness (epiphaneia) of His coming (parousia) (II Thess. 2:8).

Each verse speaks of a coming, and the coming is either “the parousia” or “His parousia.” And in each verse the word “parousia” is singular. While the word is not necessarily used in a technical sense, the fact that the same word is used does serve to unite the passages rather than dividing them.

First Thessalonians 4:15 speaks of “the coming of the Lord.” In English there is the article “the” because the article appears in the Greek text. It is the definite article, speaking of the specific coming of the Lord. Implied is the fact that there is only one coming, “the coming.” In so many, seemingly insignificant ways, the Scriptures constantly affirm the one-time coming of Christ. Scripture does not state, nor does it ever suggest, that the return of Christ will be in two stages. There is one Second Coming, “the coming.”

To state that there is only one return but that the return is in two parts (the Rapture and the Revelation) only makes matters worse. Not only do Scriptures always use the singular (one return), but also in no Scripture, implicitly or explicitly, is it taught that the single return is in two parts or stages. To affirm two stages of a single return, one must have clear and unmistakable Scriptural support. Such a view must be delineated in God’s Word. It must be so obvious that it will stand the test of investigation. Not only is the Lord’s return always singular, but two stages or parts of that one return are never even hinted at, much less plainly stated.

Scripture does not state that the return of Christ will be in two parts. The Second Coming is a single event. Scripture does not teach the two-stage idea; rather, it is a system imposed upon Scripture. It does not arise from Scripture but is brought to Scripture, and Scripture is made to conform to the system rather than the system arising from the Scriptures. In other words, the structure of a Rapture followed some years later by the Revelation is imported to the Scriptures, rather than the Scriptures themselves establishing the structure. The idea is not Biblical. It is an inference that is applied to Scripture rather than being a truth taken from Scripture. All systems must be evaluated by Scripture; and if no support is found for the system, then the system or structure must be rejected.

Scriptures speaking of the Second Coming that are separated by the Dispensationalists into two different groups, referring to either the Rapture or the Revelation, should instead be viewed as describing the same event from different perspectives. That is to say that the basic approach should be one of uniting the Scriptures rather than dividing them.

Consider the example referred to in the second paragraph of this article. Instead of separating Titus 2:13 from Revelation 1:7, the verses should be united, thus forming a better scenario of the Lord’s coming. For the believer His coming is the “blessed hope”; but it also will be a public spectacle (“every eye shall see Him”). There is no valid reason for separating these verses and interpreting them to describe two different events, calling the first the Rapture and the latter the Revelation. They describe the same event but approach or discuss it from different perspectives. One views it as a hope for the believer, the other as a worldwide spectacle. One views the comfort of it, the other the greatness of it. Thus, to separate these verses into two different events is unwarranted, especially without explicit Scriptural teaching that requires that the two events be separated.

Assume one event unless two stages are taught. The Rapture and the Revelation are two aspects of the same end-time event, the one-time Second Coming. At the time of the Revelation, the Rapture will take place. When He is revealed the believers will experience the Rapture. Scripture does not state that the return of Christ will be in two stages.

When I began to search the Scriptures for myself I discovered
that there is not a single verse in the Bible that upholds the pretribulation theory,
but that the uniform teaching of the Word of God is of a posttribulation rapture.
Oswald J. Smith

We can only conclude
that the distinction between the Rapture of the Church and the Revelation of Christ
is an inference which is nowhere asserted by the Word of God
and not required by the terminology relating to the return of Christ.

The vocabulary used of our Lord’s return lends no support
for the idea of two comings of Christ or of two aspects of His coming.
On the contrary,
it substantiates the view
that the return of Christ will be a single, indivisible glorious event.
George Ladd

Pretribulationism is the more elaborate view in that
without explicit scriptural statements it divides the second coming
and the resurrection of the saints into two phases.
Robert H. Gundry

Return to: The Rapture Question; Next Article: The Secquence of End-Time Events

For overview of the website, see: Site Map
Copyright © Embraced by Truth
All rights reserved.
Materials may be freely copied for personal and academic use;
appropriate reference must be made to this site.
Links are invited.