Will there be a second and third coming of Christ?

By Rev. Bill Lee-Warner

"...looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus"

Titus 2:13 is often used by pretribulationists to show that there is a difference (of time and objective) between what they refer to as "the Rapture" and "the Revelation of Christ."

The "blessed hope" and the "glorious appearing" are said to be two different events, or in effect, two distinct comings of Christ. For the pretribulationist, the "blessed hope" is seen as the Rapture, when Christ comes (secretly) "for" the saints at the beginning of the 70th Week of Daniel while the "glorious appearing" is seen as Christ's physical return to earth "with" His saints at the end of the 70th week of Daniel, for the final judgment of the world and the setting up of the Millennial Kingdom on earth.

For the following reasons, this passage in Titus cannot support the notion that there are two comings (parousia) of Christ: one for the saints, the "blessed hope" and one for the world, "the appearing of the glory of... Christ Jesus."

1. In Greek grammar, there is a rule known as Granville Sharp's rule, which says in simplified form that if two nouns of the same case are connected by the conjunction 'and' and if the definite article (the) is used preceding the first of the nouns and is not (necessarily) repeated before the second noun, the latter always relates to the same person or event described by the first noun as identical or at least similar.

By using Grandville Sharp's rule in Titus 2:13, we see that the "and" joins "the blessed hope" and "the appearing of our ... Savior, Christ Jesus". The meaning of the conjunction "and" may be translated "even" or "also". It is therefore to be understood that the two phrases are equal in relationship. In other words, they are not two completely different time and event references, rather, they are both speaking of an event that has a common referent or focal point.

A literal translation of Titus 2:13 would then be:

"...while we wait for the blessed hope even [the] glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,"

2. In I Peter 1:13, Peter writes: "...fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." Peter understood that the believer realizes his "blessed hope" at the revelation of Jesus. It is interesting that Peter, who surely would have known if there was to be both a time period and a different focus or objective between the Rapture and the Revelation of Christ, did not even hint at such a difference. Rather, he simply says that the hope of the believer is to be realized "at the revelation of Jesus Christ". The conclusion one reaches based on this verse is that the blessed hope of the believer takes place at the same time as the revelation of Christ, the time when Christ comes to rescue the righteous (the rapture) and pour out His wrath on the wicked (the revelation, as per the pretrib definition).

To use Titus 2:13 as a Scriptural base for establishing a pretribulation Rapture is a weak argument at best. Not only is the Rapture, separated from "the revelation of Jesus Christ", not the intention of the passage, it cannot be hermeneutically substantiated by any other verse in all the New Testament.

3. Paul reminds his young disciple, Titus, that believers are to look "for the blessed hope". The context of this verse gives us insight as to what is intended regarding the meaning. In verse 11, Paul is emphasizing the "grace of God" through which He has brought salvation to all men. Then, in verse 12, he appeals to that gift of God as the foundational motive for believers to live "righteously" and "godly in this present age" as they move toward that "blessed hope".

In the New Testament, the hope of believers is mentioned over 50 times. As one traces the use of the word "hope" throughout the New Testament, one discovers that nowhere is the believer's hope ever understood to be limited to that of the Rapture of the saints. The Rapture is certainly included, but it is not the sole idea. On the contrary, the New Testament writers use the word to speak of the broad experience of being liberated from the effects of sin, experiencing the full blessing of their inheritance in Christ, and being unhindered in their worship and adoration of their Lord.

To make the Rapture the entire focus of the believer's hope is to apply a meaning the New Testament writers did not intend. Certainly the Rapture is a part of the "blessed hope", albeit a significant part, but it is not the sole meaning.

4. When the student of prophecy studies the writings of the early church fathers, he discovers an interesting phenomenon: the vast majority of the Ante-Nicene Fathers (living between the end of the Apostolic age and A.D. 325) who wrote on the subject of the 2nd coming understood that the church in the latter days would face the persecution of Antichrist, which commences 3 1/2 years after the beginning of the 70th Week of Daniel (cf. Daniel 9:27; Matt. 24:15).

The implication then is that the believer's hope (which includes the anticipation of the rapture) will be realized sometime after the midpoint of the 70th Week and after the beginning of the great tribulation at the hands of Antichrist. If this is the case, and Scripture abundantly supports this view (cf. the sequence in Matt. 24:3-31), then the clear teaching of Scripture on the coming of Christ, both for His church, and with wrath (the Day of the Lord - Zeph 1:14-18, and described as beginning with the cosmic lights being extinguished ((Joel 2:31; Matt. 24:29; Rev. 6:12-17)), is that the Rapture and the Day of the Lord occur on the same day (cf. Luke 17:26-30). Therefore, there is no time separation between the Rapture and the Revelation of Christ.

The believer on that day will lift his head knowing that his "redemption is drawing near" (Luke 21:28) but the world at the same time will be in "perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world, (in context - because of the extinguishing of the cosmic luminaries) for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then will THEY (emphasis added) [in context - the people of the world] see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory." (Luke 1:25-27)

In light of what Scripture records, Robert Gundry has written, "Every Ante-Nicene writer who wrote in any detail upon the tribulation, resurrection, rapture, or second coming ...[understood] ... the church will undergo persecution at the hands of Antichrist". That means that the Rapture takes place sometime after the persecution starts (the midpoint of the 70th Week) and is not prior to the 70th Week as the pretribulationist insists. Mr. Gundry goes on to say that the only outstanding early fathers missing (that taught differently) were Clement of Alexandria and Origin, who used an allegorical method of interpretation.

Two examples corroborating the teaching that the church is present through some portion of the persecution and therefore not removed from the earth in a secret coming prior to the 70th Week are Irenaeus (the disciple of Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John) and Justin Martyr. Irenaeus wrote, "And they [the ten kings] ... shall give their kingdom to the beast, and put the Church to flight." (Against Heresies 5:26.1)

Justin Martyr, wrote, "The man of apostasy [Antichrist] ... shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us the Christians." (Trypho cx)

The early church fathers understood there to be only one coming of Christ. They never separated His coming into the idea that He would come first in a secret coming for His church and then later (perhaps seven years) with His church to pour out His wrath on wicked mankind.

For the above reasons, to understand that a difference was intended in Titus 2:13 between "the blessed hope" being the (secret) Rapture of the saints and "the appearing of...Christ Jesus" as the Revelation of Christ at the end of the 70th Week, is to incorrectly understand the verse. Therefore, there is not a distinct second and a third coming, rather one coming, one Parousia at which time God "sum[s] up ... all things in Christ" (Eph. 1:10).

 

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