Chapter 1

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Why Study the Second Coming?

 

 

Why is it important to know what the Bible teaches about the Second Coming?

 

The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is tremendously important because it will finalize history and usher in eternity. The prophets and every New Testament writer speak about the Second Coming. The New Testament alone lists over three hundred references on the subject.

The Second Coming also places other truths in their right perspective, namely, the resurrection of the just and the unjust, the Day of the Lord, the battle of Armageddon, the Day of Judgment, the end of the world, and the new heaven and earth. These end–time truths can revive us with new incentive:

To watch and pray always—“But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (1 Pet. 4:7). See also Joel 1:13–15; Matt. 24:42; 25:13; Mark 13:33–37; Luke 11:2; 18:1–8; 21:36; Eph. 6:12,13,18; Phil. 4:5,6; 1 Thess. 5:6,17,23; 2 Thess. 1:10–12; Rev. 5:8; 6:9–11; 8:3–5; 22:20.

To serve God with reverence and godly fear—“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28). See also Phil. 2:12,16; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 11:18; 14:7; 15:4; 19:5.

To live a holy life with brotherly kindness—“Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door” (James 5:8,9). See also 1 Cor. 4:5; 6:1–10; Eph. 5:25–27; Phil. 1:10,11; Col. 3:4–25; 1 Thess. 3:12,13; 5:21–23; Titus 2:11–13; 1 Pet. 1:13–17; 2 Pet. 1:5–11; 3:11–14; 1 John 2:28; 3:2,3.

To endure persecution and to rejoice in hope of the resurrection—“But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Pet. 4:13). See also John 16:22; 17:24; 1 Cor. 15:30–32; 1 Thess. 4:13; 5:10,11; 2 Thess. 1:4–10; 3:1–5; 2 Tim. 1:12; Heb.10:34–37; 11:35; 13:13–15; 1 Pet. 1:6,7.

To warn men and women to repent because Judgment Day is coming—“God . . . commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:30,31). See also Matt. 3:7,8; Rom. 2:4–8; 2 Cor. 5:10,11; 2 Pet. 3:9,10; Jude 1:14,15,22–24.

To live the crucified life, free from the love of money and earthly things—“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. . . . For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Matt. 16:24–27). See also Matt. 19:27–29; Luke 12:32–40; 17:31–33; 21:34; Phil. 3:10,11,17–21; Col. 3:1–5; 1 Tim. 6:8–14; Heb. 11:7,10,13,16.

To be zealous to know the Word and to preach it to the ends of the earth—“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:1,2). “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24:14). See also 2 Tim. 4:7,8; Matt. 28:19,20; Mark 8:38; Luke 12:8,9; 19:13; Acts 1:6–11; 1 Cor. 15:57,58; 1 Thess. 2:19; James 5:7.

 

What is the relevance of the Second Coming to other themes of the Bible?

 

Many themes of the Bible are linked to our Lord’s return and are affected by a proper understanding of it. Consider the following scriptural themes:

Faith—“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. . . . I will come again, and receive you unto myself” (John 14:1,3).

Purity—“And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3).

The Holy Spirit—“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come . . . he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13).

The Lord’s supper—“For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor. 11:26).

Church attendance—“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves . . . but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:25).

Faithfulness—“That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:14).

Comfort—“The coming of the Lord. . . . Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:15,18).

The grace of God—“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11–13).

 

Why should I be concerned about when Jesus is coming since He said in Matthew 24:36 that no man knows the day or the hour of His coming?

 

Although no one knows the exact day or hour of His coming, Jesus specifically told when He was coming, “immediately after the tribulation” (Matt. 24:29,30). Jesus spoke of future events so we would know the signs of His coming and of the end of the world: “So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors” (Matt. 24:33).

 

What emphases did Jesus and the apostles place on knowing the truth about the Second Coming?

 

With respect to the Church and the Great Tribulation, some have the attitude, “Only time will tell!” Jesus and the apostles, however, did not take such a careless attitude. They took great care to make sure that the saints understood perfectly the doctrine of the Second Coming.

Jesus said, “But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things” (Mark 13:23) and “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 13:11). He further indicated the seriousness of knowing by reproving the Sadducees who were in error concerning the resurrection because of their “not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29).

Peter also earnestly desired that the Church would know about the coming of our Lord. Even though they were established in this truth, he felt compelled to remind them constantly of it. He wrote, “Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance. . . . Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Pet. 1:12,13,15,16).

Before depicting the great events of the Second Coming, Peter further emphasized the importance of knowing these truths: “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 Saviour” (2 Pet. 3:1,2).

He also exhorted every believer to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15). Since the coming of our Lord is the blessed hope of the Church (the word “hope” is used at least twenty times in the New Testament with reference to the resurrection and the Second Coming), every born–again believer has the responsibility to know what the Bible says about this very important subject and to share it with others.

Every believer should also take to heart Peter’s solemn warning as he summed up his great teaching on the Second Coming: “Beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:17,18).

Paul also placed great emphasis on knowing the truth about the Second Coming. He wrote about it in “all his epistles” (2 Pet. 3:15,16) and in every chapter of First and Second Thessalonians. In fact, Paul’s emphasis on the doctrine of the Second Coming to the Church at Thessalonica is a fine example of its importance.

The Church at Thessalonica started when Paul and Silas preached there for about three weeks before being driven away because of unbelieving Jews who stirred up persecution against them. (See Acts 17:1–10.) Afterwards, Paul sent Timothy to establish and to comfort them in their faith. Then, when writing his first letter to these new converts, he mentioned the Second Coming in every chapter and declared, “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” (1 Thess. 5:1,2). How interesting that Paul could write to newly converted Gentiles, who had turned from their idols, “ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh. . . .”

In Second Thessalonians, Paul devoted almost the entire letter to the Second Coming and reminded the believers about his teaching concerning the man of sin. “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” (2 Thess. 2:5,6).

There’s a clear reason why Paul placed such emphasis on this key doctrine—he was preaching the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Throughout the gospels Christ teaches about the Second Coming. The subject is treated at length in Matthew 24 and 25; Mark 13; Luke 12, 17, and 21; as well as in a third of His parables.

Many of us have attended church most of our lives. We possess complete Bibles and concordances, which these new converts did not have, and suffer comparatively no persecution. Yet, what do we know about the Day of the Lord and the man of sin? The emphasis that Jesus and the apostles placed on the Second Coming indicates that it can and ought to be understood by all converts, even new believers.

What are the benefits of understanding biblical prophecy?

 

The benefits of understanding prophecy include faith and spiritual direction. Prophecy inspires faith when we understand it correctly. Jesus said, “I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe” (John 14:29); and “Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he” (John 13:19). Faith in the end–time is vital because it is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4), persecution (Rev. 13:10; 14:12), tribulation (1 Pet. 1:7,8), and Satan’s fiery darts, so we can stand in the evil day (Eph. 6:13,16).

Faith is also vital to readiness for our Lord’s return. Noah was ready when the flood came because he understood the prophetic warning of God and by faith prepared an ark. “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Heb. 11:7). Jesus asked, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).

Prophecy also gives spiritual direction. Peter wrote, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Pet. 1:19). First Chronicles 12:32 states that “the children of Issachar . . . had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” Believers need a clear understanding of end–time prophecy to know what to do and what to expect in the future.

Simeon and Anna are two saints who had light in a dark day because they heeded the word of prophecy given in the Old Testament. Four hundred years had passed since Malachi, the last Old Testament prophet, recorded his prophecy. Since then Israel had lived in spiritual darkness. It seemed God had forgotten His promise to bring a Savior to His people.

Simeon, a devout man waiting for the consolation of Israel, had the revelation of the Holy Spirit that he would not die “before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26). Anna was a widow who “departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Luke 2:37). When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple at Jerusalem, the aged Simeon took “him up in his arms, and blessed God,” and prophesied concerning Him (Luke 2:28). And Anna “coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).

Why were Simeon and Anna prepared to tell others about the coming Messiah?

They were ready because they had searched the prophetic Word of God and knew the Scripture.

Darker days are coming on the earth. As believers, we must heed the prophetic Word of God and be ready for Christ’s Second Coming. Then, in the dark days of great tribulation, the Word will be a light that shines with guidance, comfort, and hope.

 

Why is it important to know that the Bible does not teach a pre–tribulation, secret rapture?

 

Some say that it doesn’t really matter what one believes about the Lord’s return as long as one’s heart is right with God. There are, however, a number of dangers in believing that the Church will be gathered secretly before the Great Tribulation.

1. There’s the danger of becoming spiritually “soft.” It is necessary to have one’s heart right with God in preparation for His coming, but one should not overlook Jesus’ forewarning the Church of great tribulation. He warned that the Church would be hated by all nations for His name’s sake. Believers will not be ready to suffer for their faith if they believe they will escape tribulation by way of a secret rapture instead of enduring to the end. This unscriptural teaching with its smooth, easy way leads to carelessness and worldliness.

Notice how Paul linked faulty teaching with faulty living: “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings. Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (1 Tim. 6:3–5). See also 2 Tim. 2:16,23; 3:1–7; Titus 1:14–16.

2. There’s the danger of being unprepared for our Lord’s return. One cannot be ready if he does not know what to be ready for, namely Christ’s coming. Jesus and the apostles link readiness with knowing the times and seasons of His coming (Matt. 24:32,33; Luke 21:28–31; 1 Thess. 5:1–6).

To be ready, one’s mind must be armed with truth. Peter wrote, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13). See also Pro. 24:5,6; Luke 12:35–40; Rom. 15:4; Eph. 6:13,14. Since the secret rapture theory does not teach to hope until the end, it hinders Christians from being prepared for the coming of our Lord.

3. There’s the danger of following “cunningly devised fables” (2 Pet. 1:16). Peter didn’t mention a secret rapture, but he did speak of our Lord’s revelation at the end of the world (1 Pet. 1:13). Also, he implied that contrary teachings are cunningly devised fables. “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16).

Similarly, when speaking of our Lord’s appearing (2 Tim. 4:1 and 8), Paul warned that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3,4).

We know from Scripture that the secret rapture teaching is a “cunningly devised fable.” This false doctrine, fabricated by twisting scriptures out of context, has been repeated so often that many accept it as biblically true without studying it for themselves. With respect to our Lord’s return, Peter warned that “they that are unlearned and unstable wrest [twist], as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Pet. 3:16).

4. There’s the danger of having our faith overthrown. According to the apostle Paul, faulty doctrine, particularly about the resurrection, can cause one’s faith to be overthrown. “Hymenaeus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some” (2 Tim. 2:17,18). Demonstrating how dangerous he thought their doctrine was, Paul wrote that “their word will eat as doth a canker [gangrene]” (2 Tim. 2:17). He also delivered Hymenaeus and Philetus to Satan, “that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tim. 1:20).

We are living in perilous times when false teaching about the resurrection (Second Coming) is overthrowing the faith of many. Evil men and seducers are waxing “worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13). Let’s be careful, therefore, to heed Paul’s exhortation: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness” (2 Tim. 2:15,16). See also 1 Tim. 4:1,2,13–16.

5. There’s the danger of making the Bible seem overly complicated. To support the secret rapture teaching and to hide the plain truth of the Second Coming, many false teachings have been spread. These teachings state that there will be two future comings of our Lord (one for the saints at a secret rapture and the other with the saints), up to seven resurrections, four to seven judgments, and two chosen peoples. As a result of such confusion, many Christians think they can’t know anything for certain about these doctrines.

We must call the Church back to the simple, clear, and uniform teaching of the Bible. Accurately dividing the Word of God reveals one Second Coming (without two phases or a split rapture), one resurrection of the just and the unjust, one judgment day, and one elect people of God.

6. There’s the danger of obscuring related events. The Lord’s coming in judgment, “in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” is an aspect of His coming as much as when He comes in the “glory of his power . . . to be glorified in his saints” (2 Thess. 1:8–10). Because of the secret rapture teaching, however, we hear comparatively little about this aspect of our Lord’s return. As a result, many are totally unaware of the coming Day of Judgment; there is little fear of God in the world; and iniquity increases.

An ever–increasing number of Christians are being deceived into looking for a new age here on this earth instead of looking for “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13). The secret rapture teaching blinds them to the fact that when Jesus comes to gather His Church, this world will burn with fire.

7. There’s the danger of thinking anyone can be saved after the Church has been “caught up” (1 Thess. 4:17). Paul clearly declared that when the Church is caught up, “sudden destruction” will come on the wicked and “they shall not escape” (1 Thess. 4:17, 5:3). Jesus added that now is the time to “strive to enter in at the strait gate” because in that day “many . . . will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are” (Luke 13:24,25).

Those who believe that there will be opportunity to be saved after the Lord has come and shut the door are in as much danger as the ungodly in Noah’s day who believed that there was hope for them to be saved after he had entered the ark and the door was shut!

8. There’s the danger of holding to or preaching “another gospel” (Gal. 1:8,9). Paul had zeal for keeping the Church free from unscriptural doctrines. He admonished, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8,9). See also 1 Tim. 1:3,4.

Paul stressed the doctrine of the Second Coming as a cardinal doctrine of the gospel of Christ—speaking of it “in all his epistles” (2 Pet. 3:15,16). Like Jesus, Paul emphasized two truths:

• The Lord Jesus will not come until the Day of the Lord, which is after the Tribulation. (Compare 1 Thess. 4:17 and 5:2 with Matt. 24:29–31 and Acts 2:20.)

• The Church should be looking for “the coming [Greek, manifestation] of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7), or for His “glorious appearing” (Titus 2:13), not for a “secret rapture.” In the light of Paul’s admonition in Galatians 1, to proclaim the Second Coming differently from his epistles is to put ourselves in the dangerous position of being “accursed.” This may seem like a severe warning; nevertheless, it is the Word of God. We are only safe when our beliefs correspond with the gospel that the apostles received from the Lord Jesus Christ.

9. There’s the danger of accepting the “man of sin.” The Lord will not come to gather His Church until after the man of sin is revealed (2 Thess. 2:1–3). Will believers who are convinced they will be caught up in a secret rapture before the Tribulation and the revelation of the man of sin be prepared for such an eventuality? Undoubtedly, the erroneous notion of a secret rapture diverts the Church’s attention from the glorious appearing of our Lord to an unrealistic, hoped–for escape that keeps many believers ignorant of what to expect. As a result, they are unprepared for the events of the last days. Many will be taken by surprise. Being caught off guard, many will face bewilderment and fall away from the faith.

10. There’s the grave danger of believing a lie and being damned. “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” (2 Thess. 2:9–12).

We will escape the deception of the Antichrist by receiving the love of the truth. To assume that God will unconditionally keep us from all deception is not enough. Jesus and the apostles repeatedly warned, “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Matt. 24:4); “Be not deceived” (Luke 21:8); “Let no man deceive himself” (1 Cor. 3:18); and “Let no man deceive you by any means” (2 Thess. 2:3). We need the entrance of God’s Word in our minds and spirits to receive light (Psa. 119:130), warning (Psa. 19:11), wisdom (Psa. 19:7), faith (Rom. 10:17), and hope (Rom. 15:4). Only as we love and know the truth can we avoid being deceived by the Antichrist.

How can we know whether we have received the love of the truth? We can know we love the truth if we search for it (Pro. 2:1–4), delight in it (Psa. 119:47), meditate on it (Psa. 119:97), believe it (2 Thess. 2:13), and obey it (Psa. 119:167). The Bereans are good examples of receiving and searching the truth. “They received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).

In summary, here are the dangers of believing that the Church will be gathered secretly before the Great Tribulation:

 

1. The danger of becoming spiritually “soft.”

2. The danger of being unprepared for our Lord’s return.

3. The danger of following “cunningly devised fables” (2 Pet. 1:16).

4. The danger of having our faith overthrown.

5. The danger of making the Bible seem overly complicated.

6. The danger of obscuring related events.

7. The danger of thinking anyone can be saved after the Church has been “caught up” (1 Thess. 4:17).

8. The danger of holding to or preaching “another gospel” (Gal. 1:8).

9. The danger of accepting the man of sin.

10. The danger of believing a lie and being damned.

 

Why should we study the Second Coming? An incorrect view of this doctrine will have grave eternal consequences for us and for those who hear us (1 Tim. 4:16). The dangers and risks are too high. We must know this truth for ourselves. To build upon a teaching not based on the Bible is like building on sand. In tribulation, the house shall fall, and great shall be the fall of it (Matt. 7:26,27).

 
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