Bible prophecy Biblical doctrines

The Return of Jesus Christ

Chapter 2 of the book “When Jesus Returns —what then?” by Jim Gibson. I have edited the text only where necessary, changed underlining to bold text and used the KJVER Bible version. 

To begin our study of what the scriptures reveal, we will first consider those which speak of a certain day marked on God’s celestial calendar. Jesus and the disciples referred to this historic day as the “day of judgment”.

“Verily I say to you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.” (Matthew 10:15)

“But I say to you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.” (Matthew 11:22)

“But I say to you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36)

“The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations [trials], and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” (2 Peter 2:9)

“But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved to fire against the day of judgment and perdition [destruction] of ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:7)

“Herein is our love made perfect [complete], that we may have boldness [confidence] in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17)

“And the angels which kept not their first estate [position], but left their own habitation, He has reserved in everlasting chains [eternal bonds] under darkness to the judgment of the great day.” (Jude 6)

The End of the World, also known as The Great Day of His Wrath by John Martin. Credit: Wikipedia

As one studies these verses, it becomes obvious that a specific day is reserved to judge the ungodly of this world. The verse 1 John 4:17 alludes to the fact that even the believers will be judged on this fateful day. Furthermore, Jude 6 clearly intimates that the demons will also be held in judgment for this “great day”.

“And as it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment; So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and to them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin to salvation.” (Hebrews 9:27,28)

The writer of Hebrews states the obvious when he says that “it is appointed unto men once to die”. Known to everyone is the fact that death is an inescapable event. When a baby is born, its life’s clock begins to tick. In fact, its day of birth is the day that it begins to die. What is of note, however, is what the author of Hebrews states in the very next clause, that is, “but after this the judgment”. Writing with the authority of inspiration, the author further declares that the very next notable event on history’s horizon is “the judgment”. But wait! Many have been led to believe that Jesus’ second coming was to be the next historic happening. This is true, and the writer of Hebrews agrees with this cherished teaching. Notice the juxtaposition of the judgment in verse 27 with the second coming in verse 28. Thus, in the mind of the Hebrews writer, these two historic events will be simultaneous. As we shall further see, this fact is reinforced in many other scriptural references.

“But why do you judge your brother? or why do you set at [treat as] nothing your brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Romans 14:10)

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…” (2 Corinthians 5:10,11)

“And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works… And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Rev.20:11,12,15)

From the above passages, we find that the judgment seat of Christ and that judgment that is commonly known as the great white throne judgment are one and the same. They both describe a time and event in which both the godly and the ungodly are judged according to what is written in the “books”. The fool that says today “There is no God” will, on that day, kneel before God and proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord (see Romans 14:11 and Philippians 2:11). In fact, every single person who has ever lived upon the earth who has rejected their Creator will kneel before their Maker and, with this same utterance, give Him glory and honor.

“And this is the Father’s will which has sent Me, that of all which He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which sees the Son, and believes on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:39,40)

No man can come to Me, except the Father which has sent Me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44)

Whoso eats My flesh, and drinks My blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:54)

“Martha says to Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (John 11:24)

“He that rejects Me, and receives not My words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” (John 12:48)

In the sixth chapter of John, two phrases are repeated multiple times, “raise him up” and “last day”. Jesus, by using this redundancy, emphasizes the fact that there will be a resurrection at the last day of human history.

Undoubtedly, Jesus must have stressed this concept of a resurrection at the close of history to his disciples and others who followed him. This is why Martha was so well- versed in this established teaching of Jesus. In John 12, again the idea of the judgment at the last day is given prominence. So, what becomes obvious in the plain reading of the Scripture is that the resurrection, judgment and last day are all spoken as one historical event.

“Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice.And shall come forth; they that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28,29)

“And you shall be blessed; for they cannot recompense [repay] you: for you shall be recompensed [repaid] at the resurrection of the just [righteous].” (Luke 14:14)

“For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead… But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His comingThen comes the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.” (1 Corinthians 15:21,23,24)

If one were to read these passages without prior bias, then this truth becomes evident. The truth I am referring to is this: (1) there will be a general resurrection, (2) this resurrection includes both the just and the unjust, (3) the time of the resurrection will be at Jesus’ second coming, and (4) this event will mark the consummation.

So far, the idea of a general resurrection at Jesus’ second coming is not a new concept, but has already been introduced from the Scriptures, which we have previously studied. What is new, however, is the fact that at Jesus’ return the consummation of all things will be realized. Verses 24-28 give a certain insight of that last day in history which is not found anywhere else in the Bible. Here, we get a glimpse of mankind’s Savior restoring back to the Father that which was lost over 6000 years ago in the Garden of Eden, namely, man’s innocence and righteousness.

“He answered and said to them, He that sows the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of the world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father…” (Matthew 3:37-43)

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like to a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:47-50)

Oftentimes, Jesus would use a literary device known as a parable to portray a spiritual truth. Fortunately, in both the parable of the sower and the net of fishes, Jesus gave to the disciples the meaning of each. Of course, the truth being proclaimed is the same in each parable. They both speak of a harvest (general resurrection), a separation of the good from the bad (the judgment), and a reward (kingdom/heaven). Notice, too, there is only one harvest and one net. We will bring this point out again later …

“But after your hardness and impenitent heart treasures up to yourself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality; eternal life. But to them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that does evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile. In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” (Romans 2:5-9,16)

Paul gives words of warning to those who have rejected Christ. To them, Paul declares that the day of judgment will be a “day of wrath” because of their impenitent hearts. However, this day of judgment will be a day of rewards to the believers. They will be blessed with glory, honor, and eternal life. In 1st Thessalonians 1:10, Paul states that Jesus had delivered the believers from the “wrath to come”. Many of the “prophecy teachers” of today, who belong to the dispensational camp, interpret this verse as “proof” that the rapture will occur before the period known as the tribulation. This is an obvious “twisting” of the scriptures. Here, Paul is merely repeating what Jesus taught in John 5:24. In this verse, Jesus stated that those who believed in him would not come into “condemnation”, that is, wrath (see also John 3:36). That this is the truth being proclaimed is further illuminated for us in the following passage.

“But of the times and the seasons [dates], brethren, you have no need that I write to you. For yourselves know perfectly [full well] that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction comes upon them, as travail [birth pains] upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake [surprise] you as a thief… For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4,9)

This chapter is merely a continuation of Paul’s thought in the latter part of chapter 4. Although we will discuss 1 Thessalonians 4 a little later, the reader should study it now in order to acquaint himself with the entire topic of discussion. After such a review, it will become obvious that the “rapture” or Christ’s second coming is the primary focus. The original purpose of Paul’s speaking on this matter was to reassure the saints that their loved ones who had died will not be left out of this marvelous event of the second coming of Jesus. In fact, he tells them that those which “sleep in Jesus” will actually accompany the Lord upon his return.

But now, he turns his attention to the ungodly, and again reiterates that “sudden destruction” will come upon them. This destruction is the “wrath” that God will execute upon the ungodly. Notice the contrast: destruction to the wicked but salvation to the believers. Because the Christians had put their trust in Jesus, they are “not appointed” to God’s wrath. Verse 9 is also used by those who teach a pretribulation rapture. Both this verse and 1 Thessalonians 1:10 are taken out of context by the dispensationalist. The truth that the wicked will receive punishment while the righteous will receive rewards at Jesus’ second coming is a theme that is repeatedly taught in the scriptures.

“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels. In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power; When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10)

“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together to Him.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1)

I never cease to be amazed how someone can read these verses, and yet, come away with the interpretation of two comings of Jesus that are separated by a period of seven years. Of course, the dispensationalist attempts to make a distinction between the “rapture” and the “second coming”. They maintain that the rapture or “parousia” (coming-ch. 2:1), is a different event from the second coming or “apokalupsis” (revealed–ch.1:7). Both these Greek words are sometimes used interchangeably for Jesus’ second coming. Thus, the Greek makes no distinction between the two terms.

What this passage does teach, however, is that upon Jesus’ return, the wicked will be punished and the believers will welcome his arrival with much glorification and admiration for the One who saved them. Of course, chapter two continues with the same discussion and speaks of “our gathering together” to Christ. This naturally refers to the “rapture” (using the dispensational term).

Now, if we were to accept the idea that there is a difference in the two Greek terms “apokalupsis” and “parousia”, then we would have a problem in the sequence of the alleged “two-stage” coming of Christ in this passage. Let me explain. According to the dispensational view, the rapture or “parousia” occurs first, then the second coming (sometimes referred to as Day of the Lord) or “apokalupsis” will happen seven years later. The sequence is reversed in this passage. Of course, if you accepted the plain and simple mechanics of language and what the words state in these verses, then the truth becomes self-evident. Again, the message is the same as in all the other scriptures that we have examined. Namely, Jesus will return and execute judgment on the ungodly and give rewards to the saints. “That day”, as verse ten states, is none other than the “judgment day” or “last day” which, incidentally, will also be the “resurrection day” and the “second coming”.

“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming (parousia)? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished. But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men… But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness. Looking for and hasting to the coming (parousia) of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent [intense] heat?” (2 Peter 3:3-7;10-12)

In this chapter, Peter makes a comparison of the judgment of the world during Noah’s time, and a future judgment of the world that is yet to come but will happen at Jesus’ return. It is by no accident that the terms “coming” (parousia), “day of judgment”, “day of the Lord”, “day of God” are all found in this one passage of scripture. The Apostle even instructs the saints that they should be “looking for and hasting” that day to come. As before, these verses look forward to the Lord’s second coming at which time he will judge the ungodly and redeem the believers.

As a science teacher, what I especially find interesting in these verses is the description of how and to what degree the Lord will destroy the earth and the heavens. Remember that Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 1:8 that Jesus would destroy the unrighteous with “flaming fire”, but here, we discover that even the very elements will “melt with fervent heat”. One wonders if God will use the laws of physics which he established at the beginning of creation to bring about the demise of all that which he created. Intriguing, too, is the phrase “the heavens shall pass away with a “great noise”. The evolutionary cosmologists believe that the universe began by a “big bang”. How ironic is it that God will end the universe with a “great noise”. The words taken together actually intimates a tremendous sound resulting from a crash. So, I can almost envision the universe collapsing or imploding, thus causing its own incineration. [JGH: I don’t believe this is a reference to the end of the universe, comprising the starry heavens, but rather a renovation/renewal of the planet earth and its environment, preparing it for a heavenly state after the judgment. See Do the heavens literally pass away or don’t they?]

Thus far, we have shown in scripture after scripture that the resurrection, judgment, and second coming all occur on the last day of human history. However, the dispensationalist objects by saying that there are passages that unequivocally teach that there will be those who are “left behind” at Jesus’ return. Therefore, they maintain that the so-called “last day” couldn’t possibly be the end of all things. By using the scriptural “patchwork quilt” method of interpretation, they can squeeze in a seven-year period of the antichrist, the battle of Armageddon, the millennium, and the battle of Gog and Magog. If the reader is unfamiliar with the “patchwork quilt” method, it simply means that a verse or passage is plucked out from various places in the Bible and then “pieced” together to form a mosaic which they call “dispensational truth”. The reader need not try and research this novel method of interpretation, since it is merely the invention of this author. To be fair, though, let’s consider some of these “left behind” passages. Earlier in this paper, I stated that we would return to 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. We will do so at this time.

“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (precede) them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

From these verses, thousands of sermons have been preached that illuminated in much detail how that millions of people will vanish from the earth. The sermons even give some possible newspaper headlines that would be printed the day after the “rapture”. Some of the stories include accounts of airplanes crashing because the pilots had mysteriously disappeared while in flight. Others cite the hundreds of thousands of cars that were wrecked on the high-ways and no drivers were to be found. The millions of missing persons, of course, were the saints who had been “raptured”.

Paul, in writing these words, was primarily addressing his comments to those believers whose loved ones had passed away. These were words of comfort. We have already covered much of this discussion earlier in this paper. In studying the scriptures, one must be cognizant of the fact that chapter divisions were not placed in the Bible until over eleven hundred years after it was written.

Therefore, we must not let the chapter division obscure our thoughts as we read chapters 4 and 5. The topic remains the same in the bulk of both chapters, namely, the second coming of Christ. Hence, the idea of people being “left behind” has no basis of fact in this passage. We will now turn our attention to those verses which seem to have a stronger argument for this pet theory of dispensationalism.

“And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” (Matthew 24:39-41)

“I tell you, in that night there shall be two in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.” (Luke 17:34)

Just a perfunctory reading of these verses does seem to portray the image of the wicked being left upon the earth. For many years of my Christian life, I too, accepted the dispensational teachings of a “two-stage” coming of Christ, the “rapture” of the Church, and the unsaved being “left” behind to face the next seven years of the antichrist’ reign. After much study in the field of prophecy, I finally came to the conclusion that the scriptures do not support these dispensational tenets. However, I always thought that the word “left” in these verses was somewhat ambiguous. Later, fortunately, I discovered that the ambiguity was due to the translation and not to the words originally found in the earlier manuscripts.

Words are merely vehicles that are used to convey the thoughts of the speaker. Since the New Testament manuscripts were written in Greek, we need to study the two terms under consideration, “taken” and “left”, in their original language. We must do as Paul instructed Timothy to do in 2 Timothy 2:15, that is, to “rightly divide” the word of Truth.

We will begin with the word “taken”. This word is Strong’s Concordance #3880. There are 18 Greek words which are translated into the English KJV as “taken”. In fact, we find the this word (taken) 68 times in the KJV New Testament. The Greek word found in the verses cited above in Matthew and Luke is paralambano. In fact, this is the only time it is used in the entire New Testament. It essentially means “to receive near”. I like the thought of Jesus receiving us near him.

Next, let’s consider the word “left” which is Strong’s #863. The Greek word is aphiemi which literally means “to send away”. What a different picture this word paints for us! Instead of being drawn close to Jesus’ bosom, the ungodly are sent away from his presence to face the judgment of everlasting punishment.

“Then shall He say also to them on the left hand, Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire [lake of fire], prepared for the devil and his angels:” (Matthew 25:41)

From this understanding, we find that there is no support for the idea of the world continuing for any length of time after the second coming of the Lord.

In this study, we have only examined those scriptures found in the gospels and the epistles which were plain and forthright. One must never build any doctrine from apocalyptic literature, which uses much symbolism and imagery, when there are other passages available which are clear and unambiguous and that cover the same topic.

In the following chapters, we will consider a few of the more prominent teachings of dispensationalism. Since the primary objective of our study was focused on the clear and plain passages dealing with Jesus’ return, we will now limit our discussion to just a few areas of dispensational thought. These include the rapture, the antichrist, and the great tribulation.

Chapter 3 here.

Download PDF of the whole book: When Jesus Returns — What Then? by Jim Gibson

By John Gideon Hartnett

Dr John G. Hartnett is an Australian physicist and cosmologist, and a Christian with a biblical creationist worldview. He received a B.Sc. (Hons) and Ph.D. (with distinction) in Physics from The University of Western Australia, W.A., Australia. He was an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award (DORA) fellow at the University of Adelaide, with rank of Associate Professor. Now he is retired. He has published more than 200 papers in scientific journals, book chapters and conference proceedings.