Tag: GLORIOUS APPEARING

RAPTURE 18: THE BLESSED HOPE, AND THE GLORIOUS APPEARING

The “blessed hope” spoken of in the Bible is seen by some as a pre-tribulation rapture. Certainly for the believer in Jesus Christ the change from mortality to immortality is a blessed hope, but it’s not accurate to say that the “blessed hope” mentioned by Paul to Titus is the pre-tribulation rapture.

Paul didn’t call the rapture the blessed hope at all, although the rapture is associated with the appearance of Jesus. He said the blessed hope is the appearance of Jesus:

“…while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ…” (Titus 2:13).

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When Jesus appears we will be changed and we will be with him for ever, but Paul didn’t say anything about rapture or being “snatched up” before tribulation here: it’s just assumed that’s what he meant. In a sense, the appearing of Jesus Christ in this passage, and in others, has been hijacked to support a theory.

What did Paul mean by the “appearing” of Jesus Christ? The answer seems obvious. But was, as some think, Paul talking about Jesus appearing only to his Church to take them to heaven, or was he talking about his physical appearance to the whole world at the end of the tribulation? Are there two separate appearings as is claimed, or just one?

Jesus’ first appearance to the world was a physical, tangible appearance for anyone who was in his vicinity to see, whether believer or unbeliever:

He appeared in a body…” (1 Timothy 3: 16).

When resurrected, he appeared to his disciples in physical form (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). He told Thomas to touch his hands and his side and stop doubting (John 20:26-28).

Years after Jesus’ ascension John wrote that, “When he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). The word translated “appears” here is the same one used to describe his on-earth appearance in a risen state to his eleven disciples, which was, as noted, physical (Mark 16:14). This word “appears” means, according to Strong’s Concordance (see note 1 on chapter 6) “reveal”; “make known”; “appear”; “be disclosed”; “displayed”. The word “reveal” seems, logically, to negate a secret appearance, as do all the others.

The same word is used in Paul’s letter to the Colossians:

When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4).

The writer of Hebrews tells us that:

He will appear a second time…to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28).

Who will be waiting for Jesus? Is it only those taken up in a pre-tribulation rapture? Surely, the “elect”, who have been living through the tribulation, who Jesus will command his angels to gather at the end of the tribulation, will be waiting for him at least as much as we are now (Matthew 24:31)? And there’s no mention anywhere of him appearing a “third time”, as there should be if the rapture were this second “appearing” at a much earlier date than the gathering of the elect.

Paul used the phrase “appearing of Jesus Christ” on other occasions. He told Timothy to fight the good fight of faith “until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:14). He used the same Greek word here translated “appearing” as he had used in the Titus verse, when he said “the glorious appearing of our great God and savior”.

It’s interesting that in the above verse Paul didn’t tell Timothy to keep his command until he was taken up to heaven in the rapture. The relevant event Timothy was to aim for was the appearing of Jesus Christ.

These verses could perhaps be claimed, as they are, by any rapture theory. However, Paul’s statement to the Thessalonians nails the point much more clearly, when he said that the Lord would bring relief and avenge those causing them trouble:

This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels….They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).

These verses state unequivocally that believers will not see Jesus until he is revealed to punish those who have rejected him and who have persecuted his people. The day he appears to punish wrongdoers is the same day, according to Paul, that he will appear to be glorified by his people, which includes the Thessalonian church. This, according to Paul, is the day on which Jesus will be “revealed”.

The word “reveal” is one meaning of the word “appears” according to Strong’s Concordance. And Peter also uses the word “reveal” to speak of the time when Jesus will appear to his people:

But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13).

When these two passages are honestly considered together, the concept of a secret, pre-tribulation rapture melts away. Peter said that believers will be overjoyed when Christ’s glory is revealed, and Paul said that believers will be rewarded and avenged when Christ’s glory is revealed, “in blazing fire”.

We could entertain the argument, as pre-tribulation believers must, that “the day” Paul speaks of above is a general time-period. However, we already know from the Olivet Discourse that there is going to be a specific “day and hour” when Jesus will appear to punish the wicked. At the very least the two opposites in the Thessalonians verses-the marveling of those who believe and the punishment of the wicked-are happening at the same general time. There is no hint in these verses of a time-period of several years of earth-shattering events to separate the two-it has to be inserted between the lines.

GLORIOUS APPEARING

Here’s that Titus verse again:

“…while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ…” (Titus 2:13).

Now let’s compare that verse with Jesus’ description, in his Olivet Discourse, of his appearance for all the world to see.:

They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds…” (Matthew 24:30-31).

Paul and Titus were waiting for “the glorious appearing” of Jesus: Jesus said that he will appear to the whole world in “power and great glory”. Notice the word “glorious” in the first verse above and “glory” in the second, which both come from the same Greek word. It’s used again by Jesus in Luke’s gospel:

If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26).

There’s no talk here or anywhere else of people being “left behind” after a secret appearance of Jesus.

Peter used similar language in his first letter:

But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13). Again, the word translated “glory” is the same as that used by Jesus referring to his own future appearing in power and glory for all the world to see.

The common theme in many scripture verses concerning Christ’s appearing is punishment being delivered at the same time as reward:

They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.”

The “blessed hope”, says Paul, is “the glorious appearing” of our savior.

Thanks for reading. This post is an excerpt from chapter 10 of my book, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, by Nicholas Fisher. It’s available on Amazon.

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