When will it take place? Will we be here when it happens? Will there be signs or indications of its nearness? How will it affect the Church? What will happen to Israel? How about the other nations? These and many other such questions which might be asked can be rightly answered only insofar as a clear distinction is maintained between two great future events which are both concerned with the Second Coming of Christ. The purpose of this article, therefore, will not be merely to talk about the Second Coming, about which most Fundamentalists have a general knowledge, but to set forth clearly and concisely the distinctions (between Christ’s coming for His Body which is the Church, and His coming back to earth to establish the Millennial Kingdom. After this has been done it will be seen why there is so much confusion and fantastic teaching abroad today upon this subject.
The first prophecy spoken by man was: “Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints” (Jude 1:14, 15). The last message of the Bible is: “Surely I come quickly” (Revelation 22:20). Between the two covers of the Bible it will be found that this doctrine occupies a larger part of the text than any other, and that it is the major burden of prophecy. It is the clear teaching of prophecy that Jesus Christ will return to this earth personally, just as literally as He left this earth (Zechariah 14:4; Acts 1:11; Revelation 1:7; Matthew 24:30; Matthew 25:31; Revelation 19:11 to 16). It is equally clear that this second advent will be immediately after the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:29), and immediately prior to the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 19:20). This second advent is the subject of all of the Old Testament prophecy, of the Gospel accounts, of the Acts and of the Revelation. It has no direct relationship with the Church which is Christ’s Body of which all of the redeemed of this dispensation are members. Since the Church as well as the present dispensation were both Divine secrets until revealed through the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 3:1 to 9; Colossians 1:25 and 26), it follows of necessity that none of the prophecy given before Paul’s time could possibly refer to the Church. Therefore, none of the references to a future coming of Christ outside of the Pauline Epistles apply to the Church. Only those epistles which set forth distinctive Church truth will be found to contain distinctive truth concerning Christ’s coming for the Church. It would be just a useless to try to find the account of the recent World War in a history book written in the nineteenth century, as to try to find the account of the Church in the Old Testament, or even in the Gospels. Just as the Church itself was a hidden mystery from ages past, so also was the truth concerning the rapture of that Church (I Corinthians 15:51 and 52). The mystery here stated is not that Christ will come again, or that there will be a resurrection, but that the bodies of the living saints are to be changed into immortal ones at the same time that the dead in Christ are to be raised in incorruption, and both together caught, up to be with the Lord, not left here for the Kingdom (Philippians 3:20 and 21). See the article: “The Saviour Out of Heaven” in June, 1936 Issue, Bible Study for Bereans; I Thessalonians 4:13 to 18.
The following distinctions should make evident the above affirmations, as well as clarify these great and important doctrines. Since the one concerns the Church and the other the Kingdom, these titles will be used to carry out the distinctions.
1. CHURCH: No political signs are given to forecast the rapture of the Church, although certain spiritual conditions are foretold which will characterize the last days of the Church (II Timothy 3:1 to 9; II Timothy 4:3 and 4).
KINGDOM: Political signs as well as phenomena in nature will immediately precede His coming back to earth (Matthew 24:3 to 44; Joel 2:10, 30, 31; Zephaniah 14:4 to 8; Daniel 7:7 to 28; Revelation 13:14). Some of these signs seem to be already in preparation, but they will not come into open manifestation and fulfillment until the present dispensation of the mystery is completed.
2. CHURCH: No prophecy remains to be fulfilled, so that this event might happen at any moment.
KINGDOM: Much prophecy in regard to political set-ups, to the nation of Israel, and to the seven years of tribulation must first be fulfilled before this event, so that it would be impossible for it to happen during the next seven years.
3. CHURCH: Designated as the Day of Christ, which will be a day of reward and consummation of our salvation (Philippians 1:6, 10; Philippians 2:16; I Corinthians 1:8; II Corinthians 1:14).
KINGDOM: Designated as the Day of the Lord, which will be first of all a day of judgment to be followed by the establishment of the Kingdom (Isaiah 13:9 to 16; Isaiah 24:21 to 23; Isaiah 26:20 and 21; Isaiah 34:1 to 35:10; Ezekiel 30:3; Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1 to 11; Amos 5:16 to 20; Obadiah 1:15 to 21; Zephaniah 1:14 to 18; Zephaniah 14:1 to 21; Malachi 4:1 to 6; Matthew 25:31 to 46; Acts 2:19 to 21; I Thessalonians 5:1 to 3; II Thessalonians 2:1 to 8; (R.V.).
4: CHURCH: Affects only the members of the Body of Christ: the living and the dead in Christ. Unbelievers of Israel and of the Gentiles unaffected.
KINGDOM: Affects all nations, breaking in pieces Gentile powers and judging and establishing Israel as the Head nation (Daniel 2:44 and 45; Deuteronomy 28:13). The Church will be unaffected by it, since it will be with the Lord.
5. CHURCH: Involves an “out-resurrection from the dead”, which appears to precede the first resurrection (Philippians 3:11), and the rapture.
KINGDOM: Involves the first resurrection which occurs at the close of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 20:4 to 6), and no rapture. This resurrection is first in the sense that it comes a thousand years before the final resurrection. These two resurrections are the subjects of prophecy, called elsewhere the resurrection of the just and of the unjust (Acts 24:15; John 5:28 and 29). Since the Church is a secret, its resurrection is a secret one preceding the first resurrection of prophecy, being an “out resurrection from the dead”, signifying that only one cohort of the righteous dead will there be raised, namely the Body of Christ.
6. CHURCH: The material creation with its curse will remain unchanged after the Church is taken out. KINGDOM: The curse will be removed and creation will be delivered from the bondage of corruption (Isaiah 11:6 to 9; Romans 8:21).
7. CHURCH: Christ’s coming for His Church is in no way related to the fulfillment of any covenant, unless God’s promises to the Church be considered in the sense of a one sided covenant, which the Scripture nowhere calls them.
KINGDOM: Christ’s coming back to earth will result in the fulfillment of all of the covenants. These covenants were all made with the nation Israel (Romans 9:4; Ephesians 2:12), and will be fulfilled to that nation. They include the Abrahamic, the Davidic, and the New Covenants.
While we are called the children of Abraham and the seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:29; Romans 4:11), it must be understood that these relations exist only in the fact that we are justified as Abraham was, by faith apart from the deeds of the Law, and that through a Saviour Who is Himself Abraham’s Seed (Galatians 3:16), and that we as members of the Body of Christ have no relation to the Abrahamic Covenant which is called the Covenant of Circumcision in Acts 7:8. This covenant has to do with that great nation which God promised to make of Abraham, namely Israel, and with the land which it should possess (Genesis 12:2; Genesis 15:18 to 21). These promises could not refer to the Church; for it is not a great nation, neither is its citizenship upon this earth. Up to this time this covenant has not been fulfilled, but it will be when Christ comes back to earth (Deuteronomy 30:3 to 5).
The Davidic Covenant promised an everlasting kingdom to Israel upon this earth, with a King to sit upon the throne. (II Samuel 7). Israel has been without a king for about twenty-five hundred years (Hosea 3:4), but this covenant will not go forever unfulfilled. Jesus Christ was born to take the throne of David (Luke 1:32), but He was rejected and crucified. However, God raised Him from the dead to sit upon that same throne of David (Acts 2:30), but Peter makes it plain to the children of the covenants that He can not sit upon that throne so long as the heavens retain Him (Acts 3:19 to 26). Christ is not a King today sitting upon the throne of David; He is seated upon His Father’s throne awaiting the time that His enemies will be made His footstool (Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 10:13). That will occur when He comes out of heaven as King of kings and Lord of Lords. Revelation 9:11 to 16.
The New Covenant was made with the house of Israel and the house of Judah (Jeremiah 31:31). As sinners saved by the blood of Jesus, we enjoy the spiritual benefits of that Covenant, being blessed with all spiritual blessings, but it can in no sense be said that this covenant has been fulfilled with the parties with which it was made. The New Covenant guarantees the conversion of the whole nation of Israel, but we are plainly told that in this present dispensation Israel is an enemy concerning the Gospel. “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers: sakes” (Romans 11:26 to 28). Plainly then, this new Covenant cannot be fulfilled until the Deliverer comes out of Sion at some future date. This coming will be Christ’s Second Coming, and, at that time, not by some long and tedious process of the working of the gospel leaven, but instantaneously, the nation of Israel shall be born (Isaiah 66:8). Thus God will fulfill all of these great covenants with His earthly people at the Second Coming of Christ. But before any one of them is fulfilled, we as members of the Body of Christ, will be with Christ, rewarded and blessed with all those blessings which He promised us in Christ before the world began (Ephesians 1:3 and 4).