Before you assume you'll not be going through the Great Tribulation, or that you will be on earth 1000 years after Christ returns... read this book!

Two Stages
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Two Stages

 

What does the Bible teach about Christ’s Second Coming and the rapture of believers?

Does it teach that Jesus is coming in two stages—one before and the other after the Great Tribulation? How many times will Christ come again?

 

Today confusion abounds concerning this subject. A widespread teaching declares that the Second Coming of Christ will be in two stages: during the first stage only believers will see Jesus as He comes in the air to rapture them secretly before the time of great tribulation, which is mentioned in Matthew 24:21-24; during the second stage, which is referred to as His “appearing,” every eye will see Jesus as He returns in power and glory after the Tribulation.

Some argue that the Bible talks about Christ’s coming “for” the saints and “with” the saints, which implies two comings. The rapture, it is argued, is Christ’s coming for His saints, and the Second Coming is Christ’s coming with His saints. The difference between His coming for the saints and His coming with the saints dissolves if the rapture and the Second Coming are simultaneous. Therefore the two comings must be kept separate.

But is this teaching scriptural? Will the coming of the Lord really be in two stages—one secretly before and the other openly after the Great Tribulation—one “for” the saints and the other “with” the saints? What does the Bible teach? Every person’s deepest beliefs, including our own, must stand the test of Scripture. Consider five scriptural proofs which show that the Bible teaches one Second Coming of our Lord—not two or, as some say, one coming in two stages.

 

Proof #1. Jesus, the apostles, and the angels spoke of the Second Coming as being a single event.

Jesus Himself promised, “I will come again” (John 14:3). Clearly, He didn’t say, “I will come again and again.”

According to Hebrews 9:28, Jesus shall “appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” He appeared to the world once when He came to die for our sins. Here He promises to appear the second time. He makes no mention of a third time.

At His ascension, two angels foretold that Jesus will return from heaven in the same manner as He was taken up to heaven (Acts 1:11). Obviously, since Jesus did not ascend to heaven in two stages, He will not return in two stages.

 

Proof #2. When the New Testament speaks of “the coming” of our Lord, it is always in the singular, never in the plural.

To illustrate:

• Jesus declared, “The day that Noe entered into the ark . . . the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:38,39).

• Paul encouraged believers to be “waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end” (1 Cor. 1:7,8).

• Paul also stated that “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” (1 Cor. 15:22,23).

• James proclaimed that “the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (James 5:8).

These and many other New Testament verses consistently speak of “the coming” as a singular event. There is not even a hint—anywhere—of two separate comings. In every case, Jesus’ coming is in the singular—not comings, but coming.

 

Proof #3. Scripture speaks not only of one “coming,” but of one general resurrection and judgment of all men.

Many scriptures plainly link the single return of Jesus with the simultaneous resurrection of the righteous and the wicked as well as the general judgment of all men. To illustrate:

• According to John 5:27-29, Jesus declared that His Father has “given him authority to execute judgment” and to “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, to the resurrection of damnation.”

Here we see that when Jesus returns to “execute judgment,” all that are in the graves “shall hear His voice” in the same hour and “shall come forth” in the same hour to receive their eternal reward whether it be “life” or “damnation.” Thus, we see that the righteous and the wicked will be resurrected and judged at the single coming of Christ.

• Jesus also taught that He would resurrect all men on the Last Day. Concerning believers, He said, “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:39). Then, with regard to unbelievers, He stated, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). Therefore, since the wicked must be resurrected before they can be judged, they too will rise on “the last day.” Once again, then, we see a general resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked and that it will occur on the Last Day.

• Then too, Jesus declared that He is coming in “the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Matt. 16:27). Clearly, all men must of necessity be resurrected, that all may give an account unto Him. See also Rom. 2:5-9; Rev. 20:11-15.

• This truth is clearly demonstrated in John’s account of the Second Coming. “And I saw the dead small and great, stand before God. . . . And they were judged every man according to their works” (Rev. 20:11-13).

• John also recorded, “Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him” (Rev. 1:7). Think about it! When Jesus returns in clouds of glory, every eye shall see Him, both the living and the dead, even they who pierced Him. This verse clearly proves that all men will be raised when Jesus returns—both believers and unbelievers. See also Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Rev. 6:12-17.

• In accordance with the words of the prophets, Paul proclaimed that “there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” And, knowing that Resurrection Day will also be Judgment Day, he added, “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:15,16).

From these verses alone, one can readily see that the Bible teaches one general resurrection and judgment of all men and that it will occur at the single return of Jesus Christ on the Last Day.

 

Proof #4. The apostles admonished believers to serve the Lord until His “appearing,” not until a secret rapture.

Scripture reveals that the “blessed hope” of believers will be attained when they see Christ’s “glorious appearing” (Titus 2:13). For “when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see Him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

Consider the following exhortations concerning Christ’s appearing:

• John admonished believers to abide in Christ “that when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28).

• Peter encouraged the elect to “greatly rejoice, . . . that the trial of your faith . . . might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6,7).

• Paul charged Timothy to “preach the word” because the Lord Jesus Christ “shall judge the quick [living] and the dead at his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:1).

• When addressing elders, Peter said, “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Pet. 5:4).

• With regard to fleeing the love of money and to following after spiritual things, Paul admonished believers to “keep this commandment . . . until the appearing of our Lord” (1 Tim. 6:14).

• Believers were also encouraged not only to be “looking” for “the glorious appearing,” but also to “love his appearing” (Titus 2:13; 2 Tim. 4:8). For “unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb. 9:28). And, “all . . . that love his appearing” will be given a crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8).

Surely, these exhortations and promises would be unnecessary if Jesus was coming to rapture believers secretly. Obviously, the apostles taught that believers will remain on earth until the single coming of Christ, at His appearing. We know, therefore, that the teaching of a secret rapture before

His appearing, as many claim, opposes God’s Word.

 

Proof #5. Scripture reveals that Jesus is coming “with” His saints when He comes “for” His saints.

To support a two-stage coming of Jesus Christ, some teach that the Lord is coming secretly “for his saints” before the Tribulation and openly “with his saints” afterwards. Thus, it is argued that since it is impossible for Christ to come with His saints unless He has first come for them, the Second Coming must be in two stages.

There is no scriptural justification for this view, however. Paul taught that Christ is coming “with his saints” at the very time He comes “for his saints.” When discussing the rapture (Jesus coming for His saints), Paul stated that those who “sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him” (1 Thess. 4:14-17). In other words, when Jesus comes for His saints who are still alive, He is coming with the saints who have already died.

Therefore, since Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus is returning “with His saints” at the very time He comes “for his saints,” we see another indication that it teaches a single return of Christ.

 

To recap, we have considered five scriptural proofs that the Bible teaches one Second Coming of our Lord—not two or, as some say, one coming in two stages:

Proof #1. Jesus, the apostles, and the angels spoke of the Second Coming as being a single event.

Proof #2. When the New Testament speaks of “the coming” of our Lord, it is always in the singular, never in the plural.

Proof #3. Scripture speaks not only of one “coming,” but of one general resurrection and judgment of all men.

Proof #4. The apostles admonished believers to serve the Lord until His “appearing,” not until a secret rapture.

Proof #5. Scripture reveals that Jesus is coming “with” His saints when He comes “for” His saints.

We have considered five scriptural proofs that should convince any honest heart that the Bible teaches one Second Coming of Jesus Christ, not two separate comings, or one coming in two stages. It is evident that at the appearing of Jesus all of humanity will be resurrected, judged, and assigned their respective destinies. Therefore, since the Bible consistently describes the return of Christ as a single, final event, the burden of proof rests heavily upon those who try to teach otherwise.

Let us consider another question:

Does the Bible teach that the “first resurrection” is the bodily resurrection and the rapture of believers? Since the Bible speaks of the “first resurrection,” doesn’t it suggest that a “second resurrection” will follow, namely, that of the wicked?

The term “first resurrection” is found only in Revelation 20:5,6, which reads, “This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”

Many assume that the term “first resurrection” implies that the Bible teaches two bodily resurrections of the dead—one for believers at the rapture and the other for unbelievers 1,007 years later. In other words, that there will be a thousand and seven years between the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked.

That interpretation, however, would contradict other writings of the apostle John and the rest of the Bible. As we have seen already, he recorded one general resurrection and judgment of “all that are in the graves” (John 5:27-29) and associated these simultaneous events with “the last day” (John 6:39,40,44,54; 11:24; 12:48).

Then too, in the Book of Revelation, John identified our Lord’s return with “every eye” seeing Him, including those who “pierced him” (Rev. 1:7); with the seventh and last trumpet, which will signal the “time of the dead” (Rev. 11:15,18); and with the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15).

Therefore, since John’s writings consistently associate Jesus’ return with one general resurrection, he would not have contradicted himself by teaching more than one bodily resurrection in Revelation 20:5,6.

What, then, is the “first resurrection?” By comparing scripture with scripture, we will see that it is a spiritual resurrection. It is being united to Christ and partaking of His resurrection. It occurs when those who are dead in their sins hear the voice of the Son of God and live. According to the

Gospel of John, it is called “the first resurrection” because Jesus referred to two resurrections for everyone who hears the Gospel and believes—the spiritual resurrection that “now is” and the bodily resurrection that “is coming.” This is seen by comparing John 5:25 with verses 28 and 29.

According to verse 25, Jesus said, “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.” Now let’s look at verses 28 and 29 in that same chapter. “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.”

Did you notice that there are three differences in these two verses? The first difference is in the timing: Verse 25 reads, “The hour is coming, and now is.” Verse 28 reads, “The hour is coming.” Thus, the events of verse 25 are present and the events of verse 28 are future.

The second difference is in the condition of the people who hear the voice of the Son of God. In verse 25, “the dead” shall hear His voice. In verse 28, they that are “in the graves” shall hear his voice. Thus, one is a spiritual resurrection, but the other is a physical resurrection.

The third difference is in the number of people who are resurrected. In verse 25, “they that hear shall live.” In verses 28 and 29, “all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth.” Thus, one is restricted to believers and the other includes everyone—all who are in the graves.

We see, then, three differences between the spiritual resurrection and the bodily resurrection. One is present and the other is future. One relates to the spiritual resurrection; the other to the bodily resurrection. One applies only to those who take heed; the other to all who are in the graves.

These verses also show that the first resurrection, which “now is,” and the bodily resurrection, which “is coming,” are two definite resurrections made possible by the quickening, life-giving word of Jesus.

The first resurrection, therefore, is a metaphor representing the believer’s resurrection from eternal spiritual death. In other words, it is the experience of salvation—being born again into the kingdom of God.

Here are some other scriptures that relate to the believer’s first or spiritual resurrection from the deadness of sins.

Ephesians 2:1: “And you hath he quickened [made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins.”

Colossians 3:1: “If ye then be risen [resurrected] with Christ, seek those things which are above.”

John 11:25,26: Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”

Romans 8:11: “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” This verse indicates that our spiritual resurrection now is the pledge of our bodily resurrection when Christ returns.

Scripture further reveals that the benefits promised to those who have “part in the first resurrection” (Rev. 20:6) are freely enjoyed by believers from the moment they experience new life in Jesus Christ.

To begin with, they are “blessed and holy.” Ephesians 1:3,4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”

Another promise to those who have part in the first resurrection—“On such the second death [which is the lake of fire] hath no power.” Jesus said to believers, “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death” (Rev. 2:11).

Then too, it is promised that “they shall be priests of God and of Christ.” Peter wrote to born again believers: “But ye are [not, ye will be] . . . a royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:9). In verse 5, he also referred to them as “an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” See also Rev. 1:5,6.

Lastly, “they shall reign with him a thousand years.” Scripture indicates that believers are presently reigning with Christ as priests in His kingdom. Upon receiving salvation, “the Father . . . hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:12,13).

That believers are presently reigning with Christ is also seen by comparing Ephesians 1:20,21 with 2:5,6. These verses demonstrate that just as God raised up Christ to reign at His right hand in heavenly places, so He also raised up believers from the deadness of their sins to sit together with Christ in heavenly places to reign with Him.

Clearly, then, since the first resurrection is a spiritual resurrection, the resurrection which follows is the bodily resurrection. It is very important not to confuse the two. The Bible consistently teaches one bodily resurrection of the dead that will occur when Jesus returns with the sound of the last trumpet, on the Last Day.

 

Are you ready for the return of Jesus Christ? Have you had part in the “first resurrection?” Spiritually, have you passed from death to life? Have you been born again into the kingdom of God? Readiness for that momentous, final day requires a complete conversion that comes by repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If you are not ready, why not turn to the Savior today?

 

This message is available by tape. For your free copy, write to Agnes Macdonald, 2948 Creekwood Drive, Salem, Virginia 24153. Ask for tape #102—Will Jesus Come in Two Stages?

 

Be sure to tune in tomorrow evening at this same time. Hear scriptural answers to a timely question—Does the Bible teach a secret rapture? Will the rapture of believers be unseen and unheard by unbelievers? Don’t miss this all important subject. Invite a friend to listen with you.

Until tomorrow, may God bless you and be with you.