I Will Come Again
"And if I go and prepare a place for you, I WILL COME AGAIN, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." Joh 14:3 When this age-abiding promise was first uttered by Jesus to his apostles, it did not make sense. To the naturally minded men who followed Jesus, they assumed the logical move would be for Jesus to take charge as a King, throw off the yoke of Roman bondage, exalt the Jews and bless the world. Why should he leave now? There was work to be done here. When Jesus spoke of his death and strangely of his leaving, the idea simply did not fit into their expectations.
But as they wended their way along the path to Gethsemane, Jesus had assured them, If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again.
Dazed, these words made little impression on his little band. But forty days later on Mt. Olivet, huddled together in amazement with eyes turned heavenward, straining to catch the last glimpse of their ascending Lord, this promise came alive. "I will come again." Yes their beloved Master would return. The Apostles wove that glorious theme into the fabric of their ministry and their very lives.
No other doctrine is discussed more in the New Testament—over one third of its writings deal with this momentous event. How our hearts trill at the hope of being united with the returned Lord, our heavenly Bridegroom, seeing him as he is, living with him and experiencing his love forevermore—and the reality of reigning with him (Re 20:5) in a kingdom that extends to the ends of the earth, bringing "peace...like a river and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream." Isa 66:12 Long have faithful Christians prayed with the Apostle John, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus." Centuries have passed. Seemingly nothing has happened. But suddenly our day is charged with an air of expectancy.
Few would question that we are living in an unprecedented time of human history. Most Bible-believing Christians feel we are living in the very time the Bible says Christ is to return. There is a surge of interest in prophecy—a revival of interest in the second advent. Many speak of the imminent coming of Christ. This expectancy is based on our Lord’s Great Prophecy recorded in Mt 24, Mk 13, Lk 17 and Lk 21. Many believe that the nearness of Christ’s return is indicated by such signs as the following: Israel restored (Mt 24:32; Jer 16:13-18); knowledge and travel increased (Da 12:40); evils exposed as never before (Lu 12:2; 1Co 4:5); infidelity rampant from university to pulpit (Lu 18:8; 2Ti 4:1-4); men seeking pleasure, morality rotting (2Ti 3:1-5, 13); strikes, walkouts (Jas 5:1-4); racial strife, riots (Zep 1:7-9)’ juvenile delinquency (2 Tim. 3:2); wars and war preparations intensified (Joe 3:9-11); men crying fearfully for peace (1Th 5:3, Luke 21:26); trouble everywhere (Mt 24:21,22).
But let us take a closer look at our Master’s words and see what these signs really prove.
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming [Greek, parousia], and of the end of the world? Mt 24:3
Coming or Presence
The Greek word translated "coming" is parousia. It really means "presence." If parousia means "presence," then the fulfillment of the signs of this prophecy would mean that Christ is not coming shortly, but he is already secretly here as a "thief in the night." Remember, the Scriptures show that Christ’s initial return would be a thief-like, secret presence (1Th 5:2; 2Pe 3:10; Re 16:15) before "every eye shall see him." The following dictionaries (standard works in fundamentalist and evangelical bookstores) confirm this definition of presence.
W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words: Parousia, literally, a presence, para, with, and ousia, being...denotes both n arrival and a consequent presence with."
Robert Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible: Parousia, a being alongside, presence."
Moulton and Milligan’s Vocabulary of the Greek Testament Foreword: "Parousia, as applied to the return of the Lord, is simply the anglicizing of the Greek word which literally means ‘presence.’"
The Bible Definition
However, we are not confined to dictionary definitions. The Lord has provided a Scriptural definition for the Greek word parousia. Parousia appears in Mt 24:27 where it is mistranslated "coming." The following chart compares its parallel citation in Lu 17:26, providing the Bible’s own definition for parousia.
Mt 24:37lu 17:26 But as the days of Noah were, = As it was in the days of Noah, so shall also the parousia of the Son of man be = so shall it be in the days of the Son of man.
The phrase "parousia of the Son of man" in Mt 24:27 means the same as the phrase, "in the days of the Son of man" in Lu 17:26. the "days of the Son of man" (Lu 17:26) refers to the time that Christ is present, just as the "days of Noah" would refer to the time when Noah was present among his wicked generation. Therefore, parousia in Mt 24:37 should be translated "presence of the Son of man" instead of "coming" of the Son of man."
This is further confirmed by the Apostle Paul’s usage of the word. The thought of "presence" is plainly shown by the contrast with "absence" in Php 2:12. "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence [Greek, parousia] only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." This is also shown in 2Co 10:10. Every New Testament scripture in which parousia is used is listed in Appendix A.
Evangelical and Fundamentalist Consent to "Presence"
The Emphasized Bible translated by Rotherham is published by Kregel, an evangelical publishing house. Rotherham relates his struggle with the word parousia in the third edition of his translation. Although contrary to his theology, he acknowledged that parousia means "presence" and so translated it in every occurrence. He states on p. 271 in the Appendix: "In this edition the word parousia is uniformly rendered ‘presence’ (’coming,’ as a representative of this word, being set aside). The original term occurs twenty-four times in the N.T., viz.: Mt 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1Co 15:23; 16:17; 2Co 7:6, 7; 10:10; Php 1:26; 2:12; 1Th 2:19; 3:3; 4:15; 5:23; 2Th 2:1, 8, 9; Jas 5:7, 8; 2Pe 1:16; 3:4, 12 and 1Jo 2:28. the sense of ‘presence’ is so plainly shown by the contrast with ‘absence’ (implied in 2Co 10:10, and expressed in Php 2:12) that the question naturally arises, —Why not always so render it? The more so, inasmuch as there is in 2Pe 1:16 also, a peculiar fitness in our English word ‘presence.’ This passage, it will be remembered, relates to our Lord’s transformation upon the Mount. The wonderful manifestation there made was a display and sample of ‘presence’ rather than of ‘coming.’ The Lord was already there; and, being there, he was transformed (cp. Mt 17; 2, n.) and the ‘majesty’ of his glorified person was then disclosed. His bodily ‘presence’ was one which implied and exerted ‘power’; so that ‘power and presence’ go excellently well together—the ‘power’ befitting such a ‘presence’; and the three favored disciples were at one and the same moment witnesses of both."
Harry Rimmer (D.D., Sc.D.), who was styled "Fundamentalism’s outstanding spokesman" until his death, admitted that the word parousia meant personal presence. In his book, The Coming King, he observed that the Greek word parousia is used 13 times in describing the return of Christ and not once does it have the thought of "coming."
Christianity Today (a well-known evangelical magazine) published a series of essays on "Fundamentals of the Faith." the essay in booklet form on "The Second Advent of Christ" had this to say about parousia: "...let us look at the Greek words used in the New Testament for the idea of the return. First of all, there is the word parousia, which means basically ‘presence.’" No doctrine is more frequently mentioned in the New Testament that Christ’s second advent. Yet, few doctrines have been as greatly fragmented into such diversified concepts. Much of the beauty of this doctrine has been wrested from the grasp of God’s people. All secular Greek dictionaries define parousia, "presence." Most Biblical dictionaries likewise define parousia, "presence." Most current fundamentalist and evangelical writings on the second advent usually begin by correctly defining parousia, "presence." Then a strange thing happens. Somehow the word "coming" replaces "presence." Incorrect theology requires parousia to be translated "coming," but Scriptural harmony requires that it be translated "presence."
"Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth"
Historically there is not a single Protestant concept of the second advent that has an unbroken lineage back to the time of the Reformation. Since that time, Bible-believing Christians have fluctuated among a number of conflicting concepts.
Our purpose in this work is to set aside all theories of men and ascertain from the Scriptures, and the Scriptures alone, the glorious beauties of this momentous event. The faithful Christian is to "study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2Ti 2:15). The Word of Truth was originally written in Hebrew and Greek. But now the average Christian is no longer dependent upon the translators or scholars to determine the meaning of a specific Hebrew or Greek word in a given text. In fact, many of the new "translations" are mere paraphrases of former translations, with little or no consideration given to the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. Further, even the best translations have some flaws since they are the works of man.
The ready accessibility of Biblical concordances, Hebrew and Greek dictionaries and lexicons in libraries and Bible bookstores is one of the blessings of our day. With the Bible in one hand and a concordance and lexicon in the other, the average Christian can verify the meaning of original words in the Hebrew Old Testament or Greek New Testament manuscripts. He can be a "workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2Ti 2:15 For many centuries, the church has been on a rough and stormy sea longing for the blessed haven of Christ’s return. Now, with the chart and compass of God’s word, the Christian can trace the various independent lines of prophecy and see the blessed haven just before him. As there is the danger of shipwreck upon reefs just beneath the water’s surface along many shorelines, so the Christian must be his own mariner avoiding the ensnarements of unscriptural or even partially Scriptural theories on the second advent. As a "workman that needeth not to be ashamed," he will utilize, whenever necessary, the tools that make the Hebrew and Greek texts of Scripture readily accessible.
A Secret Presence Before "Every Eye Shall See Him"
Having observed that the word parousia means presence and not coming, Mt 24:3 properly reads: "What shall be the sign of thy presence and of the end of the world?"
Lu 21:25 refers to "signs" in the plural.
The Scriptures show that the first stage of our Lord’s parousia, presence, will be secret. "The day of the Lord will arrive [will be here, Greek, heko—see Strong’s, Young’s or Vine’s] as a thief." 2Pe 3:10, Rotherham A thief enters a house quietly, doing a secret work.
Consequently, the first works of our returned Lord are during a secret presence. The world will, at first, be unaware that Christ has returned.
"But ye brethren are not in darkness that day should overtake [implies, a period of overlapping] you as a thief." 1Th 5:4 Later, his presence will be made manifest to all. The Scriptures use another Greek word, apokalupsis, to describe this revealment to all. "The Lord Jesus shall be REVEALED [apokalupsis] from heaven in flaming fire taking vengeance." 2Th 1:7-8 It is in reference to this revealment to all, that Scriptures like Re 1:7 apply; "He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him." Christians, who are not overcharged with the cares of this life, will experience the joys of discerning the signs of his secret presence (Lu 21:34-36), before they are "caught up together" with him.
Later chapters will consider in Scriptural detail both the thief-like presence and subsequent revealment of the returned Christ to all mankind. See Appendix C for detailed discussion of "Every eye shall see him." \
Signs of Christ’s Presence
In considering the signs of Christ’s presence it is imperative that we are cognizant of three scriptural points. First, if as established in the previous chapter, the Greek word parousia means presence and not coming, then the signs that many accept as evidence of Christ’s imminent coming actually prove that he is already present. Second, Lu 17:26,27, Mt 24:37, 38, and many other scriptures reveal that Christ is present before the tribulation period.
And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Lu 17:26, 27.
The point of comparison is not between the arrival of Noah and the arrival of our Lord. It is not even between the coming of the flood and the coming of our Lord. The comparison is between the days of Noah before the flood and the days of the presence of our Lord before the tribulation with which this Gospel Age ends. In both periods, the people were in ignorance of the coming trouble. The days of the Son of man are the days of his parousia, presence—invisible and unknown to the world. Therefore, we should expect to see signs of Christ’s presence before the tribulation.
Third, these signs are to be recognized by faithful Christians as a proof that Christ is present. This precludes the instantaneous gathering of the living church at Christ’s return. The dead in Christ are raised "first" when Christ returns, but the "living in Christ" remain on earth for a period of time after his return and see signs of his thief-like presence.
The Scriptural teaching of the living saints being "caught up together" with the returned Lord will be considered in detail in a later chapter.
There are many proofs of Christ’s presence, fourteen of which are here considered.
Israel Restored "...the fig tree—when his branch is yet tender and putteth forth leaves."
Mt 24:32 It is generally accepted by students of prophecy that the fig tree is symbolic of the nation of Israel (Jer 24). In Mt 21:19, Jesus cursed the fig tree because he found no fruit on it and it withered away. Shortly thereafter, he proclaimed judgment on the nation of Israel, "Behold, you house if left unto you desolate." (Mt 23:38), because they had not borne fruitage to God. Israel was subsequently scattered and persecuted. Historians agree Israel’s rebirth is a miracle of history. Never before has a nation been destroyed, its people dispersed to the ends of the earth and then nearly 2,000 years later, regathered to their homeland and re-established as a nation. The fig tree coming back to life, putting forth leaves, represents Israel coming to life as a nation and receiving God’s favor increasingly.
Mt 24:32, Mr 13:28 and Lu 21:29 all say when "the fig tree putteth forth leaves ye know that summer is nigh." Matthew and Mark follow this by saying, "so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things know ye that it is near, even at the doors." Some claim that the word "it" in Mt 24:33 and Mr 13:29 should be translated "he" and feel the verse means that when Israel (the fig tree) brings forth leaves, then not "it," but "he" (Christ) is near at hand. This plainly is not correct. The "it" refers back to the "summer" in the previous verse.
When the fig tree shoots forth, then "summer is nigh." Summer is the kingdom time of favor on earth that follows the destruction of the present social order by Christ. Christ is already here when the fig tree returns to life. His presence brings about the restoration of Israel and the destruction of our present evil world to make room for his kingdom that will rule from the rivers to the ends of the earth.
Can we be certain that the "it" refers to the kingdom and not to Christ?
It is wonderful how the Bible is its own interpreter. Again, the Bible interprets a key word by means of a parallel account.
In the Lu 21:29-31 account, verse 31 replaces the word "it" of Matthew and Mark with the phrase "kingdom of God." Compare Lu 21:29-31 with Mt 24:32, 33 and Mr 13:28, 29.
And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Luke 21: 29-31 Many Christians will agree that the fig tree, Israel restored, is the greatest sign of our Lord’s prophecy. Actually, Israel’s reappearance is a proof that Christ is present.
Jerusalem No Longer Trodden Down
Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. Lu 21:24 Jerusalem, in this passage, has been generally interpreted two ways.
One: "Jerusalem" is the literal city. Therefore, the maximum extension of fulfillment would be 1967 when the old city, Biblical Jerusalem, was captured and became a part of the modern Israeli State.
The other interpretation is that "Jerusalem" is symbolic of the Jewish people, and that the incipient fulfillment began when World War I resulted in the guarantee of a national homeland for the Jews.
Jerusalem, ceasing to be trodden down of the Gentiles, was given by Jesus as a sign of his parousia.
Parousia means presence, not coming.
Therefore, whichever application we place on "Jerusalem," Christ must now be present because Jerusalem is no longer trodden down by the Gentiles.
Other New Nations
"Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth..." Lu 21:29, 30 If the "fig tree" is symbolic of the new nation of Israel, then it is logical to conclude that all the other trees shooting forth picture the birth of other new nations. Israel and all the new nations are signs of Christ’s presence. Since 1948, over 80 new nations have joined the United Nations. The birth of so many new nations is further proof that Christ has returned.
"Many Shall Run To and Fro and Knowledge Shall be Increased."
The events of Da 12:4 occur when Michael the archangel (Da 12:1; Jude 9) stands up in the Time of the End. 1Th 4:16 shows that Christ’s return is accompanied by the symbolism of "the voice of the archangel." Therefore, the events that follow Michael’s (the archangel) standing up in Da 12 are proofs that the Lord is present.
Selden’s first automobile in 1877 marked the leap forward in transportation. Today there are over 200,000,000 cars. Through increased and numerous modes of transportation millions are crossing and recrossing each other’s paths around the world. In the past 100 years, man has increased his travel from 30 mph to 25,000 mph right off the planet to the moon. Sophistication in communications, additionally, allows man to see and hear almost anywhere in the world instantly.
If the increase of knowledge from the dawn of history to the 1800’s is given a value of one, then knowledge has doubled 16 times within the last 10 years. One hundred years ago, 90 percent of the world’s population could not read or write. Today, 40 percent of the world’s population can read and write. Ninety percent of all scientists who have ever lived are alive today. Fifty percent of the world’s inventions have been created in the last decade.
The noted historian Barbara Tuchman has observed, "Man entered the Nineteenth Century using only his own and animal power, supplemented by that of wind and water, much as he had entered the Thirteenth, or for that matter, the First. He entered the Twentieth with his capacities in transportation, communication, production, manufacture and weaponry multiplied, a thousandfold by the energy of machines." (The Proud Tower, foreward, xvi) Unprecedented travel and increase of knowledge mark the presence of Christ.
Evils are Exposed as Never Before
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts...1Co 4:5 Never in all the annals of history have ecclesiastics, statesmen, men in government, heads of industry, labor leaders and the rich been so-cross- questioned, criticized and exposed as now at the bar of public judgment. Notwithstanding their determined effort to avoid the examination, they are obliged to endure the trial. Watergate, Agnew and exposed manipulations by the multi-nation oil interests, are but a few examples. The most significant thing about Watergate is not that it took place (corruption is as old as human history), but that it could not be covered up. Try as they would, it could not be hidden. Why? We are living in the time that the hidden things of darkness will be made manifest. Even a totalitarian state like Russia is powerless to prevent exposure as evidenced by the Solzhenitsyn affair. His expose gained worldwide coverage. Further exposures resulted in the overthrow of the communist empire. These world-wide exposures of corruption are another proof that we are at the time of our Lord’s return and the end of the world.
Little Faith on the Earth
...When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" Lu 18:8 "...his appearing...the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine...and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2Ti 4:1-4 Infidelity is rampant from university to pulpit. In the professed church of Christ the Word of God is no longer the standard of faith, the guide of life. Human philosophies are theories are taking its place. Even heathen vagaries are flourishing in places formerly beyond their pale.
A survey taken among delegates to the National Council of Churches revealed that over one third could not state they had a firm belief in God; thirty-one per cent could not say there is life after death; sixty-two per cent did not believe miracles happened as the Bible says they did; seventy-seven per cent did not believe the devil actually exists; and eighty-seven per cent rejected the Bible concept of inherited sin. Our day is in such marked contrast with the past that church historians speak of it as the post-Christian era. This world-wide scarcity of faith means the Son of man has come.
Signs of the Last Days
"In the last days will come time of trouble. Men will love nothing but money and self [affluence and materialism]; no gratitude, no piety, ... implacable in their hatreds, scandalmongers, intemperate and fierce [drug addiction and senseless violence], despisers of those that are good, traitors...lovers of pleasure rather that lovers of God, men who hold an outward form of religion, but are a standing denial of its reality." 2Ti 3:1-5 N.E.B., K.J.V.
These verses read like Twentieth Century headlines. A further word about one of these signs: "Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." This has been remarkably fulfilled in a prevalent philosophy of today. "Hedonism," the philosophy that the end and object of life is pleasure, is not new.
But today, for the first time, it has received general acceptance throughout the world. The various conditions predicted in 2Ti 3:1-5 are further proof that we are in the "last days" of this "present evil world."
Capital and Labor Strife
Ye rich men, weep and howl...your riches are corrupted...the rust of them shall be a witness against you...ye have heaped the treasure together for the last days. Behold the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Jas 5:1-4.
Strikes and walkouts, the cries of laborers for their wages, are signs of the last days. We hear them steadily increasing. As we have seen from 2Pe 3:3,4, these "last days" occur during the parousia or presence (mistranslated "coming") of Christ. The exorbitant profit of the industrialist and capitalist have heaped up until the "last days." The "Lord of sabaoth" has heard the cries of the workers. Since the return of the Lord, much of the injustice against the working man has been corrected. The protection of the rights of the working man is a phenomenon of our time. We have only to reflect back to 1894 when the then-future president Howard Taft wrote of the Pullman Strike of 1894, "It will be necessary for the military to kill some of the mob...they have only killed six...as yet, this is hardly enough to make an impression." The Proud Tower by Barbara W. Tuchman, page 478.
Never before in human history has the right of the worker to pressure management for higher wages and better working conditions been guaranteed by laws. But both capital and labor are tarred by the same sin of selfishness. Labor’s demands will continue to increase for both just and fancied rights. Management will share just so much of its profits and the death struggle will be upon us. This equalizing of the scales of justice between capital and labor marks us as in the "last days" of Jas 5:1-4. Another sign that Christ has returned.
Revolution and Anarchy
For the day of the Lord is at hand: for the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests. And it shall come to pass in the day of the Lord’s sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel. In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters’ houses with violence and deceit. Zep 1:7-9 Throughout the Christian Age, economically speaking, there have been basically two classes: the "haves" and the "have-nots." A large middle class is a peculiarity of our era and locates us in the Day of the Lord.
For centuries, the wealthy have been aligned with church and state in the exploitation of the masses.
We are in the "Day of the Lord" spoken of by Zephaniah. To recompense the exploitations of the past, the returned Lord has prepared a sacrifice from the avaricious accumulations of the wealthy.
And the guests (masses) have been invited to share. This economic leveling has resulted in the large middle class of our day.
Demonstrations, riots the struggles between capital and labor, racial majorities and minorities will progressively get worse in the day of the Lord’s presence until they end in complete anarchy. Already, anarchy is just below the surface—ready to burst forth at the slightest provocation.
While the Lord is balancing the scales of justice for the past wrongs of the vested interest class, the exploited class by their unjustified demands and violence reveal that they have nothing better to offer.
Because their ideologies are honey-combed with selfishness and deprivation, they will accomplish but one thing: the destruction of our social order.
The events that Zephaniah foretells take place during the Day of the Lord. The magnitude of the prophecy rules out a 24-hour day—or a shorter period of time. The masses are invited to share the economic excess of the wealthy and time is required to reveal the deceit and violence of the exploited as they rebel against the status quo.
The whole revolutionary trend of our day, with its periodic violent eruptions, is another sign that the Lord has returned.
Wars and War Preparations
Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears; let the weak say, I am strong. Assemble yourselves, and come...gather yourselves together round About...joe 3:9-11 Joe 3:1 identifies the events of this chapter as occurring during the regathering of Israel. As already seen, the regathering of Israel is a proof of Christ’s presence, therefore, in the days of Israel’s return (Joel 3:1), the wars and intensified was preparations are further signs of Christ’s presence. A phenomenon of our era is the two World Wars affecting every corner of the globe. By 1980, civilian breeder reactors in forty countries will turn out, as a by-product, enough plutonium to make 5,000 nuclear bombs a year.
Sociologist Andreski, the noted expert on wars, writes, "Our own century has so far been much more warlike then its predecessor." Time magazine (March 9, 1970) in concurring, observes that 100,000,000 have died in wars since the being of the 20th century, while only 3,845,000 died in the 19th century. The premium is on nuclear armaments. Wars and intensified war preparations are another proof of the return of Christ.
"Let the Weak Say I Am Strong"
The previous scripture in Joe 3:10 reveals that during the intensity of war and war preparations, the weak nations say, "I am strong." For centuries the weaker nations placated and satisfied the whims of the stronger nations in fear of the consequences. This has changed in our day. In the United Nations, the weaker powers stand up to the great powers, verbally assailing and influencing them as never before. The bar of world opinion and power politics limit the harassment of weaker nations by major powers.
The greatest power in the world today, the United States, has bitterly experienced the "weak" saying, "I am strong." In the war against North Korea and again in the conflict with North Vietnam, the United States was unable to wage total war for fear of the consequences of world opinion. With hat in hand, the United States gradually withdrew from Vietnam, hoping not to lose too much face in an impossible situation.
The strangle hold of the small oil-rich nations on the economies of the great world powers is another fulfillment of this sign.
The weak nations saying, "I am strong," is still another proof that Christ has returned.
"Peace and Safety"
Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth. For when they say Peace and Safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them..." Lu 21:26; 1Th 5:2,3 "The Day of the Lord" is marked by fearful nations crying for peace in conferences, but to no avail. The trouble comes upon them in spasms, as "travail upon a woman with child."
In 1907 a world court was set up at the Hague, Netherlands, to arbitrate international disputes. War was outlawed. "Peace and safety" were assured. Then World War I shook the world with an impact unprecedented in history as a whole world order began to crumble. In 1938 Neville Chamberlain "appeased" Hitler with part of Czechoslovakia and returned to England pronouncing, "peace in our times." Shortly after, the nations were embroiled in World War II.
Since the end of World War II, no previous generation has witnessed such a frenzy of peace-efforts, both on the United Nations level and nation-to-nation negotiations. Yet, war and sudden destruction continued to erupt as in Korea, Vietnam, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, etc. The Cold War ended with the fall of the Soviet Union. No longer was there rivalry between two super-powers, the United States and the Soviet Union. Seemingly, the world would now have peace. Then smalls wars like Desert Storm and the Yugoslavian ethnic wars broke out. The scriptures also indicate that Russia will again become a power to reckon with. The unprecedented peace efforts prove the presence of Christ.
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be Saved...mt 24:21,22 This unprecedented trouble is a sign of Christ parousia (presence, not coming). Watchful Christians discern Christ is invisibly present during this "great tribulation." Therefore it cannot apply to a seven-year period between "a secret rapture" and his visible return.* *See detailed discussion on the "seven-year tribulation" theory, Appendix B.
Historians agree we are in such an era of unprecedented trouble. For example: Looking back from the vantage point of the present we see that the outbreak of World War I ushered in a twentieth-century ‘Time of Trouble’... from which our civilization has by no means yet emerged.
Directly or indirectly all the convulsions of the last half century stem back to 1914 and Sarajevo: the two World Wars, the Bolshevik Revolution, the rise and fall of Hitler, the continuing turmoil in the Far and Near East, the power-struggle between the Communist world and our own...—Edmond Taylor, The Fall of the Dynasties, Doubleday, N.Y., 1963, p. 16.
We have seen that twentieth century wars have cost the lives of 100 million, but unprecedented wars are only one aspect of this great tribulation.
Tribulation as a result of Christ’s presence is everywhere. it has never been so widespread and intense.
Population Explosion: Before 1650 A.D. the population doubled every 1,000 years; it doubled in 1850 (200 years later); doubled again in 1930 (only 80 years later); and doubled again in 1965 (only 35 years later). In 1990 the world population was 5.5 billion. By 2000 A.D. it will increase by one billion. Up to 15 million people die of starvation annually. There are 30 million refugees and 100 million homeless.
Each day 40,000 babies die of starvation in Third World countries while Americans spend over $900 million yearly feeding dogs and cats.
Pollution: The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population, but annually disposes of 290 million tons of toxic waste, uses 26% of the world’s oil, release 26% of the world’s nitrogen oxides, produces 22% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.
Solid wastes, radio-active and toxic chemical wastes are contaminating our rivers, lakes and oceans. Air pollutants from car exhaust and industry spawn disease. Deaths from respiratory disease doubles every five years. Skin cancer caused by the depletion of the ozone layer is rapidly increasing. Acid rain is destroying our forests, which in turn will produce "global warming." This "greenhouse effect" could melt polar ice caps causing oceans to rise and wipe out hundreds of thousands of miles of densely populated coastal lands (affecting 2 billion people). Also, it would dramatically increase temperature variations. This would trigger life-threatening droughts and heat waves turning "breadbasket farmland" (like our Midwest) into barren desert.
Severe food shortages would result. Time is running out, according to Lester R. Brown, president of the highly respected WORLDWATCH INSTITUTE. "Preceding generations have always been concerned about the future, but ours is the first to be faced with decisions that will determine whether the earth our children inherit will be inhabitable."
Scientists are now concerned that the population explosion could hasten and increase the effect of Global warming. (New York Times, Jan. 18, 1990). Drastic climate changes resulting in economic disaster in many nations could trigger wars for survival. Crime and Violence continue to spiral. Automatic weapons are readily available to the "kid" on the street. An estimated 100,000 guns are taken into American schools daily. In large cities, students are scanned for weapons upon entering school and the halls are patrolled by armed police. There is an upsurge in the most violent types of crime by teens of all races, classes and life-styles. Once muggers robbed a person and ran off. Now they beat, violate or murder them. There were over 2200 homicides in New York City during 1990. Also, every 21/2 weeks a child was murdered in New York by a parent. Over three million wives are battered each year in the U.S.
Drugs: We are losing the drug war because the huge profits are too corrupting. In 1989 the major U.S. chemical companies sold 18.5 million pounds of chemicals to "front companies" in South America who in turn sold these chemicals to drug cartels. There are 2.2 million hard-core drug users in the United States. While 1 out of 40 persons in New York City is hard-core, nationally 1 out of 100 are hard-core users. The number of casual users is substantially higher. Is it any wonder the crime rate is spiraling? Seventy percent of New York City’s drug users are affluent. One thousand drug addicted babies are born every day.
Economic chaos: The U.S. entered the 1990’s with a staggering debt of over $3 trillion and a perilous foreign trade imbalance; the S & L Associations on the verge of complete collapse; the commercial banks in serious trouble; insurance companies failing; 1300 companies claiming bankruptcy per week. The nineties witnessed the bankruptcy of many corporate giants.
In 1983, the U.S. was the world’s largest creditor nation. By 1990 it became the biggest debtor nation (C. Fred Bergsten, head of the INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS, 1990). Weekly monitoring shows the U.S. debt has swelled to over $4 trillion. Many economists predict it will soon top $5 trillion. No longer are we the unchallenged economic power of the world.
Out of the 2,500 Savings and Loan Associations, over 1,000 needed to be bailed out. It is more than a fiasco of high risk loans and mismanagement. S & L heads have swindled astronomical sums.
Government regulators are accused of hiding facts to avert election issues.
Indeed, our generation IS experiencing a "Time of Trouble such as never was since there was a nation."
This unprecedented trouble is a sign that Christ’s coming is not imminent but he already is here.
Nations On The Run—Another Remarkable Prophecy
"Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him." Am 5:18, 19, 20 In Amos’ prophecy the fleeing man represents the world’s experiences in this dark "time of trouble." At the dawning of our era, Great Britain ruled the most expansive empire on earth. The lion in this prophecy, Britain’s national symbol, appropriately illustrated the mighty nation that devoured (colonized) weaker nations. Colonialism’s suffocating grasping led to the world’s fleeing to another form of government.
The man in Am 5:20 escaped the lion only to meet the bear—a form of government diametrically opposed to the grasping greed of colonialism—communism! The former Soviet Union, the "bear" of Amos’ prophecy, offered man another hope for safety in this time of trouble. Communism’s failure to rescue man was underscored by its precipitous fall. The nations are now seeking another hope of security—nationalism.
Entering the "house" of nationalism has been anything but comfortable for the world. Bosnia, Serbia, Germany and other nations now seeking safety in nationalism are suffering civil war, economic malaise, the rise of new "hate groups" and other ills. While in the supposed security of ultra-nationalism (will church and state reunite?) the people place their hand on the wall. Seeking rest in the supporting structure of human government will result in being bitten by the serpent. That old Serpent, the Devil and Satan, which once deceived the nations that they were Christ’s Kingdom (Re 12:9) will bite them again. Then the nations will feel the rebuke of Jehovah in the great time of trouble.
Nations on the run is one of the signs of the "day of the Lord," the day of Christ’s presence.
There are many additional signs that prove Christ as already returned, but the ones we have considered are more that adequate to establish a point. "What shall be the signs of thy parousia [presence]?" The fact that we have seen these signs fulfilled in our day proves we are living in the period of Christ’s secret presence—the period before "every eye shall see him."
Why Some Christians Are Unaware
Lu 21:34-36 warns that when Christ returns some Christians are unaware of His presence. this "Day" comes as a snare upon two kinds of Christians. some are overcharged with the cares of this life; others neglect the Word and Spirit of God to follow leaders who misguide them.
Study Lu 21:34-36. Remember that this chapter is speaking of signs of Christ’s second presence and notice how watching Christians are aware when the day of the Lord comes upon them; whereas the world and negligent Christians are not.
Our Lord says, "Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you [Christians] unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them [the world] that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch [watch yourselves and also the word of prophecy] ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man."
The phrase "that ye may be accounted worthy to escape" in verse 36 of the King James Version is a poor translation. compare the following translations: Revised Standard Version, "praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place." Rotherham, "making supplication that ye may gain full vigour to escape all these things that are about to be coming to pass." New English Bible, "praying at all times for strength to pass safely through all these imminent troubles."
These translations indicate that the thought of the Greek* is that watching and praying Christians will receive the strength to pass through the tousles during the early period of that "day." Note that the church is still on the earth. Strength is not necessary for an experience from which the Lord removes you, but the Lord gives strength to endure the dangers Christians must encounter in the tribulation.
However, negligent Christians are ensnared by these dangers. Note well the implications of this scripture. Faithful Christians are here during part of the tribulation period, but are sustained by the strength of the Lord.
*Both Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words and Thayer’s Greek-EnglishLexicon of the New Testament observe that the Greek word in Lu 21:36 translated "accounted worthy" in the King James Version is not found in the most authentic manuscripts. Instead the Greek word katischuo appears which means "full strength." The word "escape" is a translation of the Greek word ekpheugo which means "to seek safety." Thayer defines katischuoekpheugo—"to have strength to overpower or overcome." _________________________________________________________
The Church Lives Into Part of the Tribulation
Na 1:5-8 confirms this thought. Verse 5 reveals the mountains quaking, the hills melting and the whole world being devoured by the presence of the Lord. Verse 6 asks, "who can abide in the fierceness of his anger?" Verses 7 and 8 answer this question: "The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him." The "day of trouble" (see also Da 12:1; Zep 1:14-15), which accompanies the Lord’s presence finds the church still here on the earth.
And the Lord is their stronghold during this tribulation; whereas, in verse 8, he will pursue his enemies with an overrunning flood and darkness.
Study Ps 46:1-6, which deals with the tribulation period that brings the present world to an end. While the earth is being removes, while the mountains are being carried into the sea, while the sea is roaring, while the mountains are shaking, we find in verse 4 that the church, the "City of God," is still on the earth. Why is it that "she shall not be moved" during the tribulation? Is it because she is with Christ in heaven? No! "God is in the midst of her" while she is yet here on earth. The church would not need this protection if she were already taken home, but she needs it in the time of trouble while she is still here. God will not only protect her in the early stages, but in addition, He "will help her right early." The church will only experience part of the tribulation before her resurrection change.
this cannot refer to "tribulation saints," since only the church, the bride of Christ, is symbolized in Scripture as the City of God (compare Ps 46:5 and Re 21:2.
A deeper insight into the nature of the tribulation in Psalms 46 is obtained from the meaning of the word mountain as used in the Bible.
Jer 51:24-25, the nation of Babylon, because of her many military victories, is called a "destroying mountain." Speaking of the nations that opposed Israel, Isa 41:15 states that Israel would "thresh the mountains" and "make the hills as chaff." In Da 2:35, 44, 45, the Kingdom of God is spoken of as a "great mountain, and filled the whole earth." thus we see in Scriptural usage, mountains are symbolic of people (see Re 17:15). The roaring sea would represent the restless or anarchistic elements of mankind. When Psalms 46 says, "The waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof" and "though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea" it means "the great tribulation" will result in the destruction of the nations by anarchistic elements of society.
A further proof that the church is still here during part of the tribulation is found in Mt 24:21. Remember, Matthew 24 contains a series of signs or events that would denote not the imminent coming, but the secret presence of Christ. Faithful watchers would discern these signs of Christ’s presence. A period of unprecedented trouble is spoken of in Mt 24:21 as one of the signs of Christ’s presence; and faithful watchers will see these signs. Therefore, some of the church will be on earth when the tribulation begins and discern it as a sign of Christ’s presence.
These scriptures are but a few that reveal that the church will still be on earth during part of the tribulation.
Is the Tribulation a Period of Seven Years?
The tribulation period is variously referred to in Scripture as follows: "Great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be," Mt 24:21; "A time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation," Da 12:1; "a day of trouble," Isa 22:5; Obadiah 14; Na 1:7; Hab 3:16; Zep 1:15; Eze 7:7. It is interesting to note that nowhere in these tribulation scriptures is a seven-year period mentioned. Many fundamentalists are unaware that the "seven-year tribulation" is mistakenly based on Da 9:24-27—a scripture that has nothing to do with the "tribulation" that closes the Christian Age. (Turn to Appendix B for a detailed discussion on the Origin and Scriptural Evaluation of The Seven-Year Tribulation’ Theory.")
"Caught Up Together With Him"
Paul, speaking of the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ, called it "that blessed hope." Ti 2:13 What a blessed hop indeed when finally united with Christ, our beloved bridegroom. soon the warfare will be ended, the toiling and suffering over. Soon we will experience that joy of seeing him face to face and sharing the presence of his fellowship throughout eternity. Long have Christians waited for the second coming of Christ; long have they fervently prayed for the time they would be united with him whom they have grown to love so much.
Inspiring thoughts of this glorious event have been the basis of many hymns. A phrase evolving from this joyous expectation is the "rapture."
It is well to bear in mind that the word "rapture" is not found in the Bible. Consequently, we must determine if the popular rapture concept is actually Scriptural. A consideration of all the scriptures on the resurrection of the saints reveals that when Christ returns, the "dead in Christ" are raised; then, during the period between his return and the full establishment of his Kingdom, the living saints are gathered to him individually as they die over a period of time.
What Say the Scriptures
1Th 4:16, 17, describes the raising of the saints at Christ’s second presence. Note the sequence of time between the resurrection of the "dead in Christ" and the living saints being caught up.
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven...and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them...to meet the Lord... This scripture plainly states that Christ first resurrects the saints who are "dead, having fallen asleep in death since his first advent. "Then" (afterwards, Greek epeita, "thereafter") the living saints are "caught up" to meet the Lord. The contrast of "first" and "then" denotes a difference of time. Paul doesn’t tell us here how long the time difference is, but other scriptures do. Note another important point. Evidently the phrase "caught up together with them" does not denote the time, but rather the place of their being together, for in 1Th 5:10, the same Greek word hama is again translated "together" and clearly denotes place. "That whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him." Thus, nothing in 1Th 4:16, 17, indicates that the "dead in Christ" and the living church are taken at the same time.
1Co 15:51, 52, also describes the two parts of the resurrection of the saints. "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at [during] the last trump." The word "at" is a poor translation. Rotherham correctly translates it "during." The phrase "the last trump" implies previous trumpets. The only other trumpets in the New Testament are a series of seven trumpets found in Revelation. Some mistakenly believe that the trumpet of 1Co 15:51 sounds during a "secret rapture" to be followed by a "seven-year tribulation" during which, among other events, the seven trumpets of Revelation literally sound. However, since the trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:51 is called the last trumpet, it must correspond with the last of the seven trumpets of Revelation. This would mean the previous six trumpets have already sounded. Evidently, the sounding of these six trumpets is not literal, since such a literal sounding would have aroused worldwide attention. Therefore, we can reasonably conclude, that the six trumpets are symbolic. And if the first six are symbolic, then the seventh trumpet is also symbolic. Scriptural proof that the symbolic meaning of the trumpets are a proclamation of truth, will be dealt with at a later point. It is during this period of the sounding of the last trump that the resurrection of the church will occur.
The "day of the Lord" is also the "day of the trumpet." Zep 1:15,16 This symbolic trumpet, proclamation of truth, sounds during the whole "day of the Lord."
"We Shall Not All Sleep, But We Shall All Be Changed"
Some will have slept in death before their resurrection at Christ’s return. However, Christians living during Christ’s presence will be changed in the twinkling of an eye without sleeping in death. Each, at the instant of their dying, will be raised to immortality.
Re 14:13 gives us the time element of the resurrection of the saints who are alive at Christ’s return: "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth:...that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." All the saints, even those living today, are, in this text, considered "dead."
"Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." (Col 3:3) These "dead" do die. a point of time is indicated by the word "henceforth."
The point of time is Christ’s return. Preceding verses describe events during Christ’s presence; then Re 14:13 speaks of something that happens from "henceforth," that is, from the return of Christ onward. Blessed are the saints who die from that point on because, though they rest from their labours in the flesh, they will not have to wait in the sleep of death. Their "works" follow immediately with them as they are raised to meet the Lord. Thus, we see that these scriptures teach the resurrection of the sleeping saints at this return; and then, an individual resurrection of the remaining living saints as each dies and become changed "in the twinkling of an eye."
The Problem of a Partial Quotation
A set of verses in our Lord’s Great Prophecy is frequently used to prove the instantaneous gathering of the living saints to Christ in the air. It will be seen however, that they have nothing to do with the living saints being taken to heaven.
I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Lu 17:34-36 This is a classic example of the danger of a partial quotation. Upon the basis of this limited citation, it might be reasoned that the ones that are taken are caught up to heaven, but verse 37 rules out this possibility: And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles (Gk. eagles or vultures) be gathered together.
The curiosity of the disciples was aroused by Jesus’ statement that two people would be in various situations and one would be taken. They specifically asked where they would be taken. Notice that Jesus did not say they would be caught up together with him at his return. His answer is "wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together." Some feel the body here referred to is the body of Jesus.
However, Mt 24:28 specifies that the body of which the eagles are gathered is a dead body or carcass. The lesson of the eagle in Job 39:30 corroborates this usage of a slain body. Further, if the body is referring to the literal body of Jesus, then eagles must also be literal and thus would render the passage meaningless. Both the body and the eagles are symbolic. Jesus is evidently basing his lesson on two characteristics of eagles found in Job 39:27-30; the eagle’s ability to see her prey (food) afar off; and her willingness to travel a great distance to secure this food—where the body (food) is, there the eagle will be. The Scriptures compare faithful Christians to eagles in this respect. they have the ability to see or discern spiritual food afar off and they will travel great distances to secure it.
A Rich Feast
This lesson of Lu 17:34-36 is beautiful. Remember, Luke 17 and Matthew 24 are accounts of our Lord’s Great Prophecy in which He gave signs of his parousia, presence. The living church cannot be caught up at the moment of Christ’s return, for they will be here on earth discerning the signs of Christ’s presence. But their relationship to the returned Lord is blessed and unique.
Chapters tow and three of Revelation describe seven churches. Many Bible-believing Christians hold to the concept that these represent seven stages of the church down through the Christian Age. To the Philadelphia, or sixth stage, the Lord said, "Behold I come quickly."
(Re 3:11) But, the Laodicean, or seventh stage of the church, the Lord says, "I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Re 3:20 So it is with the returned Lord. The fulfilled signs of our Lord’s Great Prophecy prove that we are in the Laodicean or seventh stage of church history, the period during which the Lord is present and some of the church remain here on earth. We might refuse to hear his knock; that is, refuse to understand the truth of his presence or even refuse to open the door of our hearts to the returned Lord. Nevertheless, he is present whether we accept it or not.
To those who do accept it, there is a great spiritual feast. They sup together with their returned Lord. This feast of truth that is to be the blessed portion of the church on earth when the Lord returns is also brought out in Lu 12:37-40: Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.
Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not. Lu 12:37-40 The faithful church will be watching for the Lord’s return. When he returns, they will recognize it and he will serve them with a special feast of truth. This feast is not in heaven. It is enjoyed by watchful servants on earth. These verses depict the blessed conditions of faithful Christians who remain on earth for a period of time after our Lord returns. This is one aspect of the two-fold lesson of the eagles we are considering. When the Lord returns, the eagle class, faithful Christians, will be gathered to this rich spiritual feast. The second lesson is that the eagle can see food afar off and will travel great distances to secure it.
Re 18:1-5 reveals what is involved in this traveling.
And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. Re 18:1-5 Many believe the mighty angel of verse one is our returned Lord. The Greek word aggelos, here translated "angel," simply means "messenger." Re 20:1-3 also used the word "angel" or "messenger," when referring to the returned Christ coming down from heaven and binding Satan. Mal 3:1-3, a parallel passage to Re 18:1-5, speaks of our returned Lord as the "messenger of the covenant."
Our returned Lord, the mighty angel of Re 18:1, enlightens the earth with his glory. (We will deal later with other scriptures that show a great enlightenment of truth along every line—scientific, humanitarian, philosophical, religious, etc., which causes the earth to tremble. Ps 97:1,4) Re 18:2-4, reveals that the returned Lord has a message against Babylon. Most agree that Babylon is a false Christian system.
Re 17:5 indicts both a mother system of Babylon and daughter systems. Therefore, Babylon represents a number of false Christian systems. Note the difference between the fall of Babylon in Re 18:2-4 before her plagues come, and the destruction of Babylon in Revelation 18:8 when the plagues come. Therefore, the Lord is present for a period of time before the destruction of Babylon. Before his return, the Lord tried to "heal" Babylon (Jer 51:9), but she refused to be "healed." At his return, he cast her off from favor. Revelation 18:2-4 refers to Babylon’s fall from divine favor. Then in Revelation 18:4, our returned Lord has a message for all true Christians in Babylon: "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues."
This is the lesson the eagle. The returned Lord has promised a great spiritual feast of truth, yet most Christians are in Babylon when he returns. Just as the eagle can see food far away and travels a great distance to secure it, so faithful Christians will discern the lack of spiritual food in Babylon and will leave. They must flee Babylon (Jer 51:6) in order to enjoy the spiritual feast from the returned Lord.
The confirmation of applying Re 18:1-5 to the beginning period of Christ’s presence, during which the living saints are gradually caught up to the Lord, is found in Revelation 14. The time element and message of Re 14:8 is exactly the same as Revelation 18:2.
And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. Re 14:8 It is during the period of this proclamation of the fall of Babylon from favor that we are given our "henceforth" period of Re 14:13, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth." We have already seen that Revelation 14:13 proves the individual resurrection of the living church over a period of time. The synchronizing of the time element of Revelation 18:1-5 and Revelation 14 is further proof that when our Lord returns there is a gradual resurrection of the living church, not instantaneous gathering to Christ.
The lesson of Lu 17:34-37 is important to all Christians now living during our Lord’s presence. The eagles of verse 37 are symbolic of faithful Christians. The bed, mill and field of verses 34 through 26 are also symbolic. The represent different spiritual conditions in the nominal churches. The ones in the mill, the field, and the bed who are taken represent faithful Christians. When the Lord returns, He will call his people out of Babylon. He will attract them as eagles are attracted by food for which they have a keenness of vision and appetite. The watching and worthy are taken, this is, they leave Babylon, and the others are left to experience the plagues that destroy Babylon. The food of "present truth" now provided by our present Lord is having its intended effect of gathering his saints by and to it. It is not the gathering by one man or many men unto themselves or into a new denomination, but a gathering unto Christ himself, the true and only Master and Teacher.
A Further Proof
A further proof that the one in the bed, the one in the mill and the one in the field (Lu 17:34-36) do not picture the living church caught up to heaven is found in verses 30-33 of Luke 17.
Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away and he this is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. Lu 17:30-33 If, as some feel, the living Christians are taken, the rapture takes place instantaneously, then those who are taken have no time to make a choice or do anything else. This is contrary to verses 30 to 33. When the Son of man is revealed, the one in the field has the choice of turning back and the one upon the housetop can decide to go down into the house to take his belongings. These verses harmonize with Lu 17:34- 37, where, like the eagles, the one in the bed, the mill and the field are gathered to a feast.
When the Lord returns and calls his people out of Babylon (the nominal churches), those on the housetops (Christians with a higher degree of spirituality) should leave immediately without taking any Babylonish encumbrances with them. And even when the flight from Babylon has begun, none should turn back as did Lot’s wife, verse 32.
Verse 33 further confirms that these verses refer to a condition of separation here on earth. Notice it is after one is taken that he still has the choice to turn back. After the gathering begins, his course of action will determine whether he loses or saves his life.
From the foregoing scriptures discussed in this chapter, it become evident that the instantaneous change and resurrection of both the living and dead in Christ at the moment of his return, is not a Scriptural concept. 1Co 15:50, 51 and 1Th 4:16, 17 reveal that all faithful Christians who dies before the second advent will be raised to be together with their Lord at his return. From that time onward, Re 14:13 reveals that members of the living church on earth will be caught up individually to their returned Lord as they complete their course on earth. Many scriptures show that the returned Lord will reveal himself in a very special way to faithful Christians on earth and provide a rich feast of spiritual truth.
"Every Eye Shall See Him"
Having established Scripturally that the second advent of Christ begins with a secret invisible presence which is discernible only to the church by the eye of faith, the question logically arises, will the future revealment to all mankind involve mental perception or literal sight?
Harmony must be sought between two sets of scriptures relative to this matter. Mt 24:30-31 and Re 1:7, if taken literally, could be interpreted to mean that all mankind will see the returned Christ with their literal eyes. On the other hand, the following four scriptures state, with clarity, that after Christ ascended into heaven, mankind would not and could not see him with the literal eye.
(1) "Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye [shall] see me: because I live, ye shall live also." Joh 14:19 Here is a plain statement by Jesus just prior to his death and resurrection that the world would never again see him. Then he adds that "ye," the apostles and all the church would see him again. Why? Because "ye shall live also."
Just as Christ was resurrected, so his faithful followers will be raised at his second advent. "The world seeth me no more." When Christ returns, the world will not see him with the literal eye, but his followers will literally see him when they are caught up together with him in their resurrection bodies. 1Jo 3:2
(2) Heb 1:1-3 tells us that the glorified Christ is the express image of the Father’s person. Col 1:15 speaks of Christ, "who is the image of the invisible God." These scriptures show that when Christ ascended into the presence of God, he was the exact image of the Father. From 1Ti 6:16 we learn that Christ is "dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see." If no man can see Christ after his ascension, because he is the exact glorious image of the Heavenly Father, then no man can see the returned Christ of glory.
(3) Ac 22:6-8 and 11-14 reveal that a mere glimpse of the glorified Christ completely blinded Saul of Tarsus. If required the power of God through Ananias to even partially restore Saul’s sight.
Literal, or Symbolic
These four scriptures show that the glorified Christ will not and cannot be seen at his return. Yet Re 1:7 and Mt 24:30 seem to indicate that all mankind will see the returned Lord. Will this be by literal sight or by mental perception (as for example, when we say, "I see [understand] what you mean")? As Christians, we cannot afford to base our conclusions upon one set of scriptures that do not fit with our views. We must accept the challenge: "Study to show thyself approved unto God...rightly dividing the Word of Truth." The only valid way to ascertain the correct view of any Biblical doctrine is to collate all the scriptures on a given subject and then rightly divide them, that is, harmonize them. Only then can we be sure of the correct understanding. When all the scriptures on a given subject are brought together, they will harmonize. They will not contradict.
It is generally admitted that some scriptures are symbolic, for example, the fig tree of Mt 24:32 which represents the nation of Israel and the eagles of Lu 17:37 which symbolize faithful Christians. The problem is how to determine if a passage is literal or symbolic.
Whenever a literal interpretation does violence to reason or places the passage in direct antagonism to plain statements of Scripture, it is a good indication that the passage should be considered figuratively and its interpretation as a symbol should be sought in harmony with obviously plain and literal passages.
Remember Joh 14:19; 1Ti 6:16; Ac 22:6-8, 11-14 and Lu 17:20 are all plain statements to the effect that the returned Lord cannot and will not be seen by the human eye. These scriptures should be read and reread. They are literal statements that cannot be taken symbolically.
Now, for a consideration of the other set of scriptures (Mt 24:30-31 and Re 1:7), which speak of all mankind seeing the returned Lord.
Are they literal or symbolic? In both texts, the Greek word translated "see" is optomai. The following definition is from An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W. E. Vine: OPTOMAI—to see; used a) objectively, with reference to person or thing seen, or b) subjectively, with reference to an inward impression or a spiritual experience or a mental occupation.
Thus we see optomai can mean either literal sight or mental perception.
The following are examples of how the Greek word optomai is used in Scripture to denote mental understanding.
Lu 3:6—"And all flesh shall see [optomai] the salvation of God."
One doesn’t literally see salvation, one understands it.
Joh 1:51—"And he [Jesus] saith unto him [Nathanael], Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see [optomai] heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man."
Nathanael never literally saw this. In an allusion to Jacob’s ladder, Jesus is saying that the Son of man would become the real ladder of communication between heaven and earth.
Three more examples of optomai are found in the following: · Re 19:10—"And he said unto me, See [optomai] thou do it not.
·" Mt 24:4—"... And they said...see [optomai] thou to that.
·" Mt 24:24—"... I am innocent...see [optomai] ye to it."
These scriptures reveal that the Bible does use optomai, translated "see" in Mt 24:30-31 and Re 1:7, in a symbolic sense to denote mental understanding.
A thoughtful reading of Mt 24:30-31 and Re 1:7 reveals terminology that leads itself to symbols, and in fact, are often used in the bible as symbols. For example, in the following quotation of Mt 24:30-31, words that frequently are used symbolically are her italicized. "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see [optomai] the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
The scripture simply cannot be taken literally. Any concept with which it is harmonized requires a symbolic interpretation. For example, some apply this scripture to the living saints being caught up with Christ to heaven. But here in Mt 24:30-31 they are gathered "from one end of heaven to the other." If understood liberally, the saints would already be in heaven when Christ returns, and this scripture would teach that the saints are taken at that time out of heaven and not to heaven. This rules out a literal interpretation of Mt 24:30-31. It also says that they are gathered from the "four winds." Are the saints gathered from four literal winds?" Those who teach the rapture concept recognize this problem and symbolize the four winds and the word "heaven" in verse 31 to mean that the church will be gathered from all parts of the earth.
However, this presents a greater problem. By what rule can we arbitrarily symbolize the word "heaven" in verse 31, yet insist that it is literal in verse 30 where it mentions "the sign of the Son of man in heaven" and "coming in the clouds of heaven"? Mt 24:30-31 is either literal or symbolic; it cannot be both. A literal application does not make sense; therefore, both verses must be consistently symbolic.
Symbolic Meaning of Mt 24:30-31
Heaven and heavens are often symbolic of corrupt religious systems (2Pe 3:5-10; Isa 34:5-4; Joe 2:9-11). See can denote mental perception (Lu 3:6; Joh 1:51; Re 19:10; Mt 27:4,24). Clouds often represent trouble as in Joe 2:1-2, a parallel text of Mt 24:30-31.
The word angels is translated from the Greek word aggelos which literally means messenger and often refers to any messenger of God (Rev. 2 and 3, the seven angels or messengers to the church). Trumpets are often used to denote a proclamation of truth (1Co 14:8; Joe 2:1).
With these symbols in mind the explanation of Mt 24:30, 31 becomes meaningful. Here the Master tells us in verse 30 that one of the first signs or evidences of Christ’s return will be in heaven, that is, in the corrupt religious systems. Verse 29 speaks of the powers of the heavens shaking. Agnostic revolutionary influences have infiltrated the churches. The resultant battle between the fundamentalist and the modernist has sorely rent the church heavens. Since Vatican II, Catholicism is being similarly shaken. The Son of man comes in "clouds of heaven," that is, during this trouble that is shaking the churches. The Luke account includes "distress of nations with perplexity." This worldwide trouble in both the churches and the nations will increase in intensity until all the people of the earth mourn because of it. Finally "they shall see [discern] the Son of man coming in the clouds" of trouble, that is, they will realize that the trouble is the result of our Lord’s return. While the heavens (nominal churches) of Mt 24:30 are being shaken, verse 31 reveals that the returned Lord will "send his angels [messengers] with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect—from one end of heaven (corrupt church systems) to the other." Re 18:1-4, a parallel passage, further confirms that this trumpet is a proclamation of truth. Through this great proclamation of the truth, faithful servants of God will call the Lord’s people out of Babylon.
Symbolic Meaning of Re 1:7
"Behold, he cometh with clouds [in a time of trouble]and every eye shall see [optomai, discern] him [as the trouble intensifies, it will become evident that the day of God’s wrath has come], and they also which pierced him [the Jewish nation will especially discern Christ’s presence in the final phase of the time of trouble when they are delivered from an invasion of many nations (Ezek. 38, 39; Zech.12:10)]: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him [as the day of wrath intensifies all will experience much sorrow and anguish]."
Re 1:7 cannot be taken literally since those who literally pierced Jesus have long since died. If "they also which pierced him" is symbolic of the living Jewish people, then the "clouds" and "every eye" seeing him must also be symbolic.
Thus we find that the Bible does not contradict itself. Many scriptures plainly state that the returned Lord cannot be literally seen by man. In harmony with this, the few scriptures that refer to mankind seeing the returned Christ, are obviously symbolic and denote a mental discernment of Christ’s presence.
(A more detailed Scriptural proof of the symbolic explanation of Mt 24:30-31, Re 1:7, and all other scriptures in which the word "see" denotes mental perception of Christ’s return, will be found in Appendix C.)
The Man of Sin
In his second letter to the Thessalonians the apostle Paul shows that two circumstances must precede the second presence of our Lord: (1) a great falling away from the original, apostolic faith; and (2) the appearance of the Man of Sin, the antichrist (2Th 2:3). No interpretation of our Lord’s second advent should be seriously considered which fails to identify these two events. Having proven that our Lord has already returned, we now proceed to show that the Man of Sin has indeed come, fulfilling every detail of the prophetic description.
Let us first note, however, the disharmony between this prophecy and some current views. Some claim that the Lord Jesus first comes secretly to take his saints—and then the Man of Sin appears. An examination of an error made in the early church is instructive on this point. Recognizing that Christ was to come invisibly, as a thief (1Th 5:4, Re 16:15), some believers in Paul’s day concluded that Jesus was already present and that the resurrection of the dead in Christ had, therefore, occurred (2Th 2:1-2, 2Ti 2:18). In order to correct this mistake, Paul found it necessary to advise that they "be not soon shaken in mind...that the day of the Lord is present [Greek, enistemi]. Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition." 2Th 2:2,3 Compare with the Revised Standard Version. Notice, the invisible presence of Christ is preceded, not followed, by the revealment of the Antichrist. Also verses 1 and 3 teach that the Man of Sin precedes two things: (1) "The coming of our Lord"; and (2) "our gathering together unto him." This eliminates the possibility of Christians being taken to heaven before the Man of Sin is revealed.
It should be observed further, that Paul did not attempt to correct their error by asking if they had seen Jesus with their literal eyes, or had heard a literal trumpet with their ears, or had seen large numbers of Christians suddenly disappear. Had such arguments been appropriate, Paul would certainly have employed them. The concept of the invisible presence was correct: the Day of the Lord would steal quietly upon the world and many would be overtaken by it unawares (1Th 5:2-4).
Mystery of Iniquity
Read 2Th 2:3-8 again. In verses 7 and 8 Paul call the "Man of Sin" the "Mystery of Iniquity" and says that "it," not "he," already is a work in his day. This could not be a literal man. He would be nearly two thousand years old now. Why did Paul call the "Man of Sin" the "Mystery of Iniquity"? Remember the beautiful mystery Paul showed in (Eph 5:30-32, Col 1:26-27 and 1Co 12:12-28). Christ is "not one member but many." Just as the human body is a union of many members, so the church is the body of Christ. Paul’s lesson of contrast is clear. Just as there is a mystery class of righteous or justified believers who compose Christ, so there is a mystery class of iniquity (evil workers) who comprise Antichrist. Paul’s use of the phrases, "Man of Sin" and Mystery of Iniquity" in verses 7 and 8 prove they are one and the same.
Origin of the Man of Sin
To trace the origin of the Man of Sin, we must begin in Paul’s own day.
Writing to the church at Thessalonica, he warned them, saying, "For the Mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [Greek, restrains] will let [Greek, restrain], until he be taken out of the way.
And then shall that Wicked be revealed." 2Th 2:7, 8 Compare with the Revised Standard Version. In the ambitions of leaders to be "lords over God’s heritage" (1Pe 5:3), and in the desire of some to avoid the path of sacrifice which Jesus ordained. the Antichrist principle found fertile soil. When the Roman Emperor, the restraining one, ceased his opposition to Christianity, this spirit of worldly ambition blossomed rapidly into the Papacy. "As ye have heard that [the] Antichrist shall come," wrote the Apostle John, "even now are there many antichrists." 1Jo 2:18 Pointing out that the spirit of Antichrist was already at work, he proceeded in the remainder of the chapter to advise how to escape its influence when it did come.
That there was a great "falling away" from true Christian faith during the early centuries of the Gospel Era, no Protestant will deny. Pompous rituals and elaborate ceremonies replaced the simple preaching of the Gospel. Salvation was sought no longer through the blood of Christ alone, but from holy water, relics of saints, medals and amulets, the rosary and the intercession of Mary. Multitudes flocked to converted heathen temples to pray to and adore the very same idols which the Pagans had worshipped a short time before. The names of the statues were simply changed form those of Pagan gods and heroes to the names of Christian martyrs and saints. The Roman Emperor, who as Pontifex Maximus ("Chief Religious Ruler"), had been the head of all the Pagan priests, vacated his office in favor of the Bishop o Rome, the new Pontifex Maximus. Whereas the Roman emperors had claimed to possess the Keys of Janus and Cybele, the new supreme pontiffs, dressed in the same costume as their forerunners, claimed possession of the Keys of St. Peter and attempted to prove that the Apostle Peter had once been the Bishop of Rome, ; something completely unsubstantiated by history This Man of Sin, growing out of the apostasy, as foreseen by Paul, exalted "himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God." 2Th 2:4 The temples to which Paul refers is not a literal building, but the Church of God, for he elsewhere declares, "Ye are the temple of the Living God." 2Co 6:16 The self-exaltation of the bishops of Rome in the temple (church) of God was extravagant beyond measure. Applying divine prerogatives to themselves, they claimed that every human being must be subject to their authority. "The pope holds the place of the true God," declared Pope Innocent III (A.D. 1198-1216). The Lateran Council (A.D. 1123) acclaimed the pope as "Prince of the Universe." St. Bernard (A.D.1090-1153) wrote that "none except God is like the pope, either in heaven or on earth." And Pope Nicholas (A.D. 858-867) boasted that Constantine had "conferred the appellation of God on the pope, who, therefore, being God, cannot be judged by man. Astounding as these false claims are, they deceived the whole Christian world during most of Papacy’s dark reign (Re 13:5, 6). Only a faithful few escaped their baneful influence and remained loyal to their true Lord and Head. And be it noted that the Greek prefix "anti" signifies not merely "against" or "opposing," but also "instead, in the place of." (See Strong’s or Vine’s) Thus, Antichrist is not simply an opponent of our Lord and his truth, but as impostor, a usurper of his position. Attributing the purest motives to the popes, the Papacy would still be the Antichrist; for claiming to be the "Vicar of Christ" on earth and supreme "Head of the Church," each pope in turn has applied the Messianic promises and appellations of Scripture to himself. Even kings were required to kiss the pope’s great toe, in supposed fulfillment of Psalm 2:12, "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry."
The System—Not Individuals
We are not, of course, stating that any one pope was the Antichrist, must less that every Catholic or pope is a man of sin. What we are saying is that the Man of Sin, the Antichrist, the "Mystery of Iniquity" is the Papal system. It is not an individual.
Antichrist in Other Prophecies
There is general agreement that the "little horn" on the fourth beast of Daniel 7 and the leopard beast of Revelation 13 are symbolic of Antichrist. Whether these picture a literal Man of Sin or a system is the question. Some feel the four beasts of Daniel 7 represent four governments. The fourth beast is the Roman Empire and the "little horn" on this beast symbolizes a single individual who is the Man of Sin. Yet they claim the leopard beast of Revelation 13 pictures not a government, but a personal Man of Sin and the ten horns picture ten governments that support this worldwide dictator.
Here we are confronted with a basic violation of Scriptural interpretation. When the bible identifies a symbol, then we are on shaky ground to give that symbol a different meaning. Daniel, Chapter 7, clearly states that beasts represent governments and it lists the governments: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome. By what logic are the beasts of Revelation symbolic of an individual when beasts in Daniel are admittedly governments? Also, is it not inconsistent to claim the "little horn" in Daniel is a man, whereas the horns of Revelation are governments? Consistency requires a uniform application of the beasts and horns in both Daniel and Revelation. The justification for this reversal of interpretation is the claim that the leopard beast of Revelation 13 is referred to by a personal pronoun "he"; whereas the government beasts of Daniel are not. This simply is not valid. In Da 7:19, 20, the fourth beast, which all agree represents the Roman Empire, is referred to by the personal pronoun "his." In Da 8:3-7 the beasts picturing Medo-Persia and Greece are continually referred to by the personal pronouns "he" and "him."
Daniel Chapter 7
Several facts concerning the "little horn" prove that Antichrist is a system and not an individual. Da 7:25 reveals that the "little horn...wears out the saints of the most high." And this presents a dilemma if a personal antichrist wears out the saints during a future "seven-year tribulation." If as some claim the true church is taken to heaven before the "tribulation," who are "the saints of the most high" that are persecuted by the Man of Sin? They reply that these are the "tribulation saints" of Revelation 7 and not the saints or church of Christ who are taken before the tribulation. They add that the "tribulation saints" will be in the kingdom, but have no part in reigning with Christ in His kingdom. This, they say, is reserved exclusively for the church of Christ.
With this the future literal Man of Sin concept crumbles. In Da 7:13= 14, Christ is brought before the Heavenly Father and given the kingdom. In Da 7:18 and 22, "The saints of the most high," the same saints that are persecuted by the "little horn," the Man of Sin, are also given the kingdom. Remember, only Christ and his church reign in His kingdom. Therefore, "the saints of the most high" in Daniel 7 are not the "tribulation saints," but the Church of Christ who reigns with Christ. This also gives us the time element of the Man of Sin. The "little horn" persecutes these saints, consequently, the "little horn," the Man of Sin, is revealed before either the Day of Christ when the saints are resurrected or the tribulation occurs.
What and when is this 1260-day period? The Bible is its own interpreter. That is, the Lord has put into the Bible certain rules for interpreting symbols, parables, time prophecies, etc. If we ignore these basic Scriptural rules then our understanding of scripture will be confused. The Scriptural rule for interpreting time prophecy is found in Eze 4:1-8. Here we are given a 390-day period and in verse 6 of Ezekiel 4 we read, "I have appointed thee each day for a year." By this divinely provided rule of interpretation, 390 days equals 390 years.
Therefore, all agree that the seventy week (7 weeks x 7 days = 490 days) of Da 9:24-29 refer to 490 years and not 490 days. This is based on the day-equals-a year key provided in Eze 4:6. Why then do some make an exception to the 1260 days of Daniel and revelation and insist on a literal period of 1260 days? According to the Lord’s rule in Eze 4:6, a day for a year, this would be a 1260-year period. Many students of prophecy apply this to the period between A.D. 539 and 1799. In 539 A.D. the last of the three horns (civil powers) that stood in the way of the Pope of Rome being recognized as the civil ruler of Rome was removed (Da 7:8). Remember, horns in prophecy consistently picture civil or governmental powers. The pope was already acknowledged as the supreme religious ruler of the empire.
This year 539 A.D. marks the beginning of papacy’s (the "little horn") civil power. For 1260 years papacy, the Man of Sin, ruthlessly persecuted the true church (Da 7:25) until papacy’s persecuting power was broken by Napoleon imprisoning the pope in 1799. This persecution had reached its ultimate in the so-called Holy Inquisition.
Established by Pope Innocent III in 1204 A.D., it was applied with unimaginable cruelty in every country and the so-called "holy office" of the Inquisition continued the carnage until the armies of Napoleon put an end to its work. Whole villages and towns were indiscriminately slaughtered on the theory that "God will know his own." Tens of thousands were burned alive at the stake, while countless others were subjected to torture by the most hideous inventions. Aside from the more spectacular crimes of the Inquisition proper, the steady, relentless crushing of individuals over many centuries certainly presents an appalling scene. No wonder the prophet Daniel was alarmed! Da 7:28 Napoleon’s imprisoning of the pope and his death in 1799 ended one of the most bloody periods in history, the 1260-year’s persecution of the saints by Papacy.
The Scriptures do not speak of a "seven-year tribulation" nor do they speak of two back to back 1260-day periods. The following citations are the only places in the Bible which mention the 1260 days: Da 7:25; 12:7; Re 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:5. Each agrees with Da 7:25. The holy people (saints means holy ones) of Daniel 12:7; the holy city (identified in Re 12:2 as the bride of Christ) of Re 11:2, the woman (symbolic of Church, 2Co 11:2) of Revelation 12:6, 14; the saints in Revelation 13:5, 7 all show the Church of Christ is persecuted for 1260 days by Antichrist. And the Bible rule for time prophecy is a day for a year (Eze 4:6). During the 1260 years of Papacy’s persecution of the Church, God’s two witnesses (Re 11:3 the Old and New Testaments) witnessed in sackcloth—the dead language of Latin.
Earmarks of Antichrist
Da 7:25 delineates four characteristics by which the Man of Sin can be identified. "And he  shall peak great words against the most High, and  shall wear out the saints of the most High, and  think to change times  and laws."
We have already considered the first two points: the preposterous words by which popes claimed to be "as God" and the wearing out of the true Church by papacy. Papacy did indeed "change times."
Unwilling to await the unfolding of God’s plan, papacy changed the time of Christ’s Kingdom. It declared the reign of Christ had already begun and applied scriptures relating to the Millennial glory of Christ to the unchallenged dominion of the popes up until 1799. (Douay Bible, First Edition, footnote on Re 20:2) Another example of Papacy’s attempting to "change times" is in their changing of the calendar.
Did papacy change laws? The precepts and commandments of God meant little. By the claimed right of issuing "dispensations" the popes frequently set aside the moral law. Murder of heretics was called praiseworthy, subjects were encouraged to rebel, oaths and contracts were canceled and torture was declared to be an "act of faith." Spying, intrigue, perjury and theft were pronounced virtuous deeds when performed in the service of the church. Not content, moreover, in dispensing with divine laws, the popes were always ready to create new ones if convenience so required. Clerical celibacy was prescribed, meat was forbidden for centuries on Fridays, ecclesiastical taxes were levied and liberties of the people were frequently curtailed.
Indeed, the four earmarks of the Man of Sin given in Da 7:25 have been fulfilled in the infamous reign of papacy, especially up to 1799.
This is why Martin Luther and the other Reformers identified the papal system as Antichrist. The Man of Sin already has been revealed, therefore, there remains no objection that the Lord is now present (2Th 2:3).
With the combined weight of the testimony of prophecies of our Lord’s return before us, we may have as full a confidence of his presence as those who were his personal eyewitnesses on the Mount of Transfiguration at his first advent (2Pe 1:16-18).
In fact, our confidence in Jesus’ return is "more sure" based on prophecies—We have also a more sure word of prophecy, Whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, As a light that shineth in a dark place, Until the day dawn and the day star Arise in your hearts. 2Pe 1:19 The watchers, the children of light, see the day dawning and their Day Star, Jesus, arising on the horizon while the world still sleeps. This blessed knowledge so strengthens and energizes their hearts that they are sanctified in a way they could not be otherwise. He has kept his promise, He has come again.
They see the foregleams of the Sun of Righteousness which will eventually rise with "healing in his wings" (Mal 4:2) to bless the groaning creation. With joy they realize that they will also be with him as, Then shall the righteous shine forth As the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Mt 13:43
A Listing of Every Scripture in which the Greek Word Parousia Occurs
The following is a listing of every scripture in which the Greek word parousia occurs. (It is correctly translated presence in this listing): "What shall be the sign of thy presence?" Mt 24:3 "So shall also the presence of the Son of Man be." Mt 24:27, 37, 39 "They that are Christ’s at his presence." 1Co 15:23 "What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye, presented before our Lord Jesus Christ at his presence?" 1Th 2:19 That "he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1Th 3:13 "We which are alive and remain unto the presence of the Lord shall not precede them which are sleep." 1 Thessalonians 4:15 "Be preserved blameless unto the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ 1 Thessalonians 5:23 "Now we beseech you, brethren, by [respecting] the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him." 2Th 2:1 "Then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to naught by the manifestation [epiphania] of his presence." 2Th 2:8 See R.V.
"Whose presence is after..." 2Th 2:9 "Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the presence of the Lord." Jas 5:7 "Be ye also patient; establish your hearts: for the presence of the Lord draweth nigh." Jas 5:8 "The power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ." 2Pe 1:16
"There shall come in the last days scoffers [in the church], walking after their own lusts [desires], and saying, Where is the promise of his presence." 2Pe 3:3, 4 "And hasting unto the presence of the day." 2Pe 3:12 "When he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his presence." 1Jo 2:28 "For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible." 2Co 10:10 "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Php 2:12 "I am glad of the presence of Stephanas..." 1Co 16:7 "God...comforted us by the presence of Titus; and not by his presence only..." 2Co 7:6,7 "Through my presence again with you..." Php 1:26, Marshall’s Greek Interlinear
Origin and Scriptural Evaluation of "The Seven-Year Tribulation" Theory
Many hold the "seven-year tribulation theory, which briefly states is this: Christ secretly returns to earth to "rapture" the church and takes them to heaven. This will be followed (not necessarily immediately) by seven literal years of tribulation during which the "man of sin" enters upon the world’s stage. At the close of the seven years, Christ returns publicly with the church ("every eye shall see him"), destroys antichrist and the false prophet and begins his Millennial Reign. There are variations of the "seven-year tribulation" theory. Some feel Christ gathers the church at the middle of the seven years and call their concept the "mid-tribulation rapture." Others hold that the church is taken after the tribulation and refer to their concept as the "post-tribulation rapture."
The "seven-year tribulation" theory has its roots in dispensationalism which in turn originated, not in historic Protestantism, but in the 1800’s with J.N. Darby, the leader of the major segment of Plymouth Brethren, a wonderful group of people, but hardly representative of historic Protestantism.
Even more disconcerting is that Darby revived the counter-reformation views of a Spanish Jesuit named Ribera. A basic concept of the Reformation was that Papacy as a system was the Antichrist and that much of the book of Revelation was having its fulfillment during the history of the church. In 1590 Ribera published a commentary on the Revelation, as a counter-interpretation to Protestantism, in which he applied all but the earliest chapters of Revelation to the end time and that Antichrist would be a single evil person (not a system) who would rule the world for three and a half years during the end time.
Darby claimed that all the events from the sixth to the nineteenth chapters of Revelation occur during a "seven-year tribulation."
However, nothing in the book of Revelation say or even hints that the seven seals are loosed, the seven trumpets sounded and the seven plagues poured out during a seven-year period. A seven-year period is not even mentioned in the book Revelation. To be sure, a 31/2-year period is mentioned. However, nowhere is it indicated to be half of a seven-year period. It can be easily proven from Scripture that the 31/2 years occur before the tribulation. (See the section "Daniel Chapter 7" in Chapter VI). Therefore, the reformers such as Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, Wesley believed the 31/2 years or 1260 days were symbolic of a 1260-year period which began before their time and extended to the "time of the end."
The "seven-year tribulation" concept rests solely on an inconsistent application of Da 9:24-27, which speaks of a seventy-week period determined upon the Jewish people. Seventy weeks equals 490 days.
All agree, upon the basis of Ezekiel 4-6—a day for a year—that this seventy weeks equals not 490 literal days, but 490 years. Again, there is unanimity that the 69 weeks of Da 9:25 marks a period from a decree issued in Nehemiah’s day to the first advent of Christ. Verse 26 states that "after" the 69 weeks "shall Messiah (Christ) be cut off."
Verse 27 shows that "in the midst of the [70th] week he [Christ] shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease." Christ’s death abolished the necessity of the further offering of typical sacrifices by Israel’s priesthood.
Note well that Da 9:26 states "after" the 69 weeks "shall Messiah [Christ] be cut off." The Hebrew word achor means after. It does not mean in or during. Yet those who advocate the seven year tribulation say that Messiah was cut off in or during the 69th week. This is a mis-translation of verse 26 which plainly states "after" the 69 weeks Christ would be cut off. The 70th week is after the 69 weeks and verse 27 clearly shows it is in the midst of the 70th week that Christ died.
Therefore the seven-year period of the 70th week is not left over until the end of the Christian age. And thus the seven-year tribulation concepts falls.
The historic position of Protestantism for 300 years since the Reformation has been that the 70th week immediately followed the 69 weeks and was fulfilled with the death of Christ "in the midst" (middle) of it. In the 19th century, dispensationalists came along and said, "Not so, there is a parenthesis between the 69 weeks and the 70th week. This gap is the period between the first advent and the rapture. Then, they say, "The 70th week, seven years, begins to count. And the ‘he’ of Da 9:27 is not Christ, but anti-christ, and the seven years of the 70th week is the ‘seven-year tribulation’ during which Chapters 6-19 of Revelation are fulfilled." The mere fact that this gap is purely an assumption, not founded on Scripture, seem to matter little to the seven-year dispensationalists.
Every Scripture in which the Word "See" Occurs Relative to Seeing at His Second Advent
Mt 24:30, 31 "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
As has been shown in Chapter V, Mt 24:30-31 cannot be taken literally. The following is a Scriptural analysis of the symbols in this highly figurative passage.
Heaven and Heavens
Isa 34:2-5, 8, speaking of the destruction during The Day of The Lord, states that "all the host [multitude] of heaven shall be dissolved...and shall fall down...for my sword shall be bathed." (Verses 4 & 5) The literal heavens do not contain a multitude of people.
But the people in the symbolic heavens (the corrupt religious systems) will be punished (symbolized by his sword drenched in blood) by the returned Lord. Joel 2 describes The Day of the Lord. Verses 9-11 speak of a great army that causes the earth to "quake" and the heavens to "tremble." Literal heavens do not tremble before an army, but revolutionary forces will terrify and overthrow the nominal church heavens. The heavens of Joe 2:10 must be the same as in our text of Mt 24:29-31, for in the heavens of both scriptures the sun and the moon are symbolically darkened.
Joel 2, a parallel scripture to Mt 24:29-31, reveals that clouds, symbolize trouble. In Joe 2:1, 2 there is reference to the "clouds" that become distressingly ominous in the early dawn of the Lord’s new day.
"A day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains; a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations."
It will be noted from this that the "clouds" which appear in the early dawning of the day of the Lord’s presence really consist of "a great people and a strong," the like of which has never before been known.
This is evidently a reference to the uprising of armed forces so tremendous that civilization will crumble and fall under the impact of the revolutionary struggle they will precipitate. These clouds of trouble are even now visible.
See It has already been established that the Greek word optomai can mean mental perception (Chapter V).
Angels The word "angel" in the Greek, aggelos, literally means "messenger."
Often it refers to the angelic host, but it can just as appropriately refer to any messenger of God. For example, the returned Christ is symbolized by an angel that binds Satan for the 1,000 years (Re 20:1-3).
Trumpets The word "trumpet" is used in Scripture to symbolize a proclamation of truth. In the context of speaking the truth clearly, Paul said, "If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?" 2Co 14:8 Again Joel 2 parallels Mt 24:30, 31 and reveals the symbolic meaning of this trumpet. From verse 1 we learn that it is a proclamation of truth that warns the people of The Day of The Lord. In Zep 1:14 and 16, The Day of The Lord is spoken of as the "day of the trumpet," in which a warning of truth is given "against the fenced cities, and against the high towers [vested interests of the present evil world]."
This trumpet in Mt 24:31 is evidently the same as the "last trump" of 1Co 15:52 and the trump of God in 1Th 4:16, since all three are related to the return of Christ. This trumpet is symbolic of a great proclamation of truth at Christ’s return.
Four Winds Re 7:1 speaks of winds from the four corners of the earth that, when loosed, result in great destruction. Loosing of four winds would produce a whirlwind, which is another symbol used in scripture (Jer.25:32; Isa 66:15-16) to describe the final and severest phase of the "time of trouble" (Da 12:1).
Now that we have determined from parallel scriptures the meaning of the symbols in this highly figurative passage, Mt 24:29-31 becomes easily understood. In answer to the disciples’ query on the signs of his presence (Mt 24:3), Jesus listed a number of events that have always been true of history; "wars and rumours of wars"; "nation shall rise against nation"; famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes." Then Jesus said "all these are the beginning of sorrows [or tribulation]." There are no unusual events. They are common to history. Then in Matthew 24:29 he says "Immediately after the tribulation of those days [the common tribulation of history]" something is going to happen in the heavens. "The powers of the heavens shall be shaken." Drastic changes will rock the nominal church heavens. "The sun [the gospel sun] shall be darkened, and the moon [Mosaic Law] shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven." The Gospel (New Testament) and the Mosaic Law (Old Testament) were always under attack from those outside the church.
Re 12:1 shows the sun and the moon have always been the sustaining power of the woman, the true church. But the phenomenon of our time is that the Bible (Sun and Moon) is under attack from modernist within the church who deny the divine inspiration of Scripture. (A survey taken among delegates to the National Council of Churches revealed that over one third could not state they had a firm belief in God.)
Stars can symbolize either faithful or unfaithful teachers. These "stars" which "fall from heaven" represent false teachers who gravitate from a spiritual to an earthly ministry on a political and social level. Indeed, the powers of the heavens are shaking. The battle between the fundamentalist and modernist has sorely rent the church heavens. The God-is-dead theology was but one example of this shaking. Since Vatican II, Catholicism is also being sorely rent.
Verse 30, "And then [after the tribulation of those days] shall appear the sign [Greek, semeion, evidence] of the Son of man in heaven." One of the first evidences of Christ’s parousia, presence, will appear in the nominal church heavens. It is the darkening of the sun and moon, and the fall of the stars. When we see a wholesale attack by leaders in the churches on the divine inspiration of the Bible, and ministers falling from a spiritual condition to a political or social gospel, then we know that Christ has returned.
From Joe 2:9-11, we saw that it is agnostic revolutionary forces that are shaking the heavens. Indeed, their philosophies have influenced theologians to reject the Bible and degenerate to political battle. This was reflected in the recommendation of the Conference on Church and Society (Detroit, 1968) that the churches should support violence if necessary to achieve social change. These revolutionary philosophies are also shaking the earth. Revolution has been on the march since the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces erupted into World War II. Then followed the Communist takeover of one third of the world. The flame of revolution spread throughout Africa and Asia as oppressed nations threw off the yoke of colonialism. We are witnessing the black revolution, the sex revolution, the youth revolution. No wonder the Luke account (Lu 21:25, 26), when speaking of the shaking of the heavens, adds, "Upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves [the restless and lawless elements] roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth [society]; for the powers of heaven [nominal church] shall be shaken."
The roaring sea and waves symbolize the restless masses of humanity (Isa 57:20), curbed but not full restrained, by the laws and regulations of society. Everyone has heard some of this "roaring," with occasional stormy outbreaks dashing like tidal waves against the earth (social order) and seeking to swallow it up. Restrained for a time, these waves are gathering weight and force; and, as prophetically shown, it is only a question of a few years until all the mountains (kingdoms) are "carried into the midst of the sea," in anarchy. Psalm 46:2 In this connection Mt 24:30 says, "all the tribes of the earth mourn" as they "see" the Son of man coming in the clouds [trouble] of heaven," (and "earth," Luke). This unprecedented trouble has caused all mankind to mourn. They are experiencing the world shattering before them. Mankind sees the clouds—trouble. Many even discern these drastic changes as birth pangs that must precede a new world order. As the trouble intensifies, they will begin to discern the Son of man in the clouds of trouble and recognize that the "great tribulation" will give birth to the Kingdom of Christ on earth.
While the heavens (nominal churches) of Mt 24:29 are experiencing a great shaking, verse 31 shows a harvest work in progress. "And he [Christ] shall send his angels [messengers]with a great sound of a trumpet [truth], and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven [nominal churches] to the other."
Zep 1:14, 16 reveals that "the day of the Lord’ is also "a day of the trumpet." This rules out a literal trumpet that sounds momentarily, and confirms a symbolic trumpet of truth that sounds for a period of time.
Mt 24:31 describes a great gathering of the elect, the church (1Pe 1:2), that is accomplished by a proclamation of truth (trumpet) during Christ’s presence. This is a reference to the harvest work at the end of the Gospel Age which is described in detail in Mt 13:24- 30, 36-43). Here Jesus says that the angels are the reapers that gather the wheat (faithful Christians). Reapers do not refer to spirit angels, but to the Lord’s people who engage in the harvest work. Matthew 9:38 Since tares look like wheat, the lesson is that the angels (messengers of the returned Lord) will do a separating work, not between the church and the world, but in the nominal church, the present "heavens." This work is represented under various symbolic descriptions—it is the gathering of the wheat from the tares into the barn (Mt 13:30); it is the gathering of the good fish into baskets and the casting of the unsuitable fish caught in the gospel net back into the sea (Mt 13:47-49); it is the gathering of his jewels (Mal 3:17); it is the calling of "my people" out of Babylon (Re 18:4); it is the midnight cry to the virgins, which separate the wise from the foolish (Matt. 25:6); and, in this prophecy, it is the gathering of the "elect" from all the non-elect of Christendom, from the four winds—from every quarter.
We are not to expect spirit angels to appear with wings and to fly through the air blowing a great trumpet, and here and there catching away some of the saints—no more than we are to expect to become literal fish and to be put into literal baskets, or literal grains of wheat to be put into a literal barn. The angels or messengers used by our Lord in this harvest gathering will be such messengers as he has used in his service throughout this age—earthly servants, begotten of his holy Spirit, "new creatures" in Christ Jesus.
This "gathering of his elect [the church] from the four winds" means that this gathering will be accomplished before the four winds are completely loosed and become a whirlwind. The harvest work will be completed before the whirlwind, or final feature of the time of trouble, takes place. Also, the elect are gathered "from one end of heaven to the other," that is, out of all the nominal churches.
The harvest work of Matthew 13 and Mt 24:31 is the same work of Re 18:1-4, where we have already seen that the returned Christ gathers his faithful people out of Babylon (heavens, nominal churches), and provides them with a rich spiritual feast of present truth.
Thus we wee that by rightly dividing the word of Truth—comparing the symbols of Mt 24:29-31 with symbols in parallel scriptures—the Bible becomes its own interpreter.
Re 1:7 Re 1:7 is also often used to prove that every one will literally see the returned Christ. "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see (optomai) him, and they also which pierced him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him."
The word "see" in the Greek is optomai which we have already seen can mean either mental perception or literal sight. This verse cannot be taken literally, since those who literally pierced Jesus have long since died. The Jewish people living on the earth when Christ returns did not literally pierce him. If "they which pierced him" is symbolic, then the "clouds" and "every eye" seeing him must be symbolic. Christ returns in clouds of trouble. As the time of trouble reaches its climax, every eye, all mankind, will begin to discern that the trouble is the result of Christ’s invisible presence. "They which pierced him" at Calvary are symbolic of the Jewish people living at Christ’s return. Zec 12:10 shows that one of the final features of the time of trouble will be an invasion of the modern state of Israel. Their deliverance, by the returned Christ, from this invasion will cause them to discern that Christ is present.
And during the time of trouble, "all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him." The time of trouble is the direct result of Christ’s presence. As it grows in severity, all mankind will lament until they finally discern that it is an evidence of Christ’s presence.
Mt 26:64 Another scripture sometimes misapplied to literal sight is Mt 26:64. Speaking to the High Priest, Jesus said, "hereafter shall ye see [optomai] the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." Again, the Greek word translated "see" is optomai, which here means mental perception. If this scripture is literal, then the High Priest will be living on earth when Christ returns. This is literally impossible the High Priest Caiaphas was representative of the whole Jewish nation. And we have seen in the previous scripture that the returned Lord will be revealed to the Jewish nation in a very special way during the time of trouble—clouds.
Lu 13:35 Lu 13:35 says "Ye shall not see [eido] me, until the time come when we shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." The Greek word here translated "see" is eido. It, also, can denote mental perception or literal sight. (Strong’s Concordance defines eido as to see literally or figuratively.) This Jewish nation was cast off from special favor by these words of judgment pronounced by Jesus. But as Zec 12:10-14 shows, they will repent of their denial of Christ and see (discern) and experience the second presence of Christ and become a leading nation in Christ’s Kingdom.
Ac 1:11 Ac 1:11 is another scripture sometimes used to prove that the returned Lord will be seen by the literal eye. "...Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner, as ye have seen him go into heaven." Acts 1:11 does not say as you see the Lord ascend into heaven, so in like manner shall you see him come again. It does not say that those who saw him go will see him come, not that anyone else will see him come. What it does say is that the manner of his coming will be like the manner of his going. The manner was not with great splendor and great demonstration, trumpet sounds and voices, a great shout rending the air and the Lord’s person shining in supernatural glory and brightness. But it was quietly, secretly, none seeing him or knowing of the fact, except his faithful followers. The world did not see him go, or even know he was going, and they didn’t care. Thus, only the church at first will discern his presence.