Between the recent article concerning the pre-wrath rapture and the recent availability of the “History of the Future” book on Amazon, I’ve been spending a good deal of time dealing with eschatological matters. In the process, I’ve bumped into an argument that is shared by advocates of pretty much every other position than premil/pretrib. It goes like this —
The pretribulational position asserts that Jesus will return for His church before the seven year tribulation and then return years later to accomplish His wrath and establish His kingdom. So, just how many "second comings" are there???
The assumption behind the argument is that Christ can and will only return to Earth once and do whatever needs doing at that time. Otherwise, there’s more than one “second coming.” There’s a “third coming,” or maybe even a fourth. Hence, no pretrib rapture.
I’d like to respond.
The phrase “second coming” isn’t in the Bible. The closest we get to that phrase in Hebrews 9:28, which reads —
“So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”
We think in terms of the first and second comings of Christ in order to differentiate His incarnation and ministry (including His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension) from His promised return.
Now, in order to think biblically about Christ’s “second time” appearance, let’s consider what happened the first time around. And let’s ask the question: How many “appearances” make up His “first coming”?
Let’s count the period from Christ’s birth to His resurrection as one comprehensive whole — His life, so to speak. Immediately after His resurrection, He would not let Mary touch Him, stating, “I have not yet ascended to the Father.” (John 20:17) But soon after, in a matter of days, when He appeared in the midst of His disciples, Jesus invited Thomas to touch Him (John 20:27). We can safely assume that He had been to His Father. He left the planet and returned.
So, is that a “second coming” or is it part of the first? We all count it as part of His first coming. Christ’s “first coming” has multiple appearances. Like His later appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:31-35) And later, He stood in their midst as they recounted the story (Luke 24:36).
He appeared again to Peter and another six apostles by the Sea of Tiberius (John 21:1-14). Later, after His ascension back to Heaven, Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus (Acts 9:1-8). In fact, Saul (whose name was changed to Paul) argued that his apostleship was based in the fact that he had actually seen the Lord (1Cor. 9:1) after multiple other appearances —
“… He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” (1Cor. 15:5-8)
Time passes. Best history and tradition tell us that Paul died somewhere in the mid-to-late 60’s AD. His fifth missionary journey ended around 67 AD, after which he was beheaded by Nero. Meanwhile, the apostle John was banished to the Isle of Patmos under the reign of Domitian, sometime around 90-92 AD. And who appeared to him? Jesus again. Somewhere in the range of sixty years after His ascension, Jesus appeared to John to impart the information we call the book of Revelation.
How many appearances is that now?
Here’s my point — if the “first coming” of Christ included multiple appearances to different people, in different situations, for different reasons, including calling John up to Heaven (Rev. 4:1), over a period of time that spanned 60 years, then I don’t see any inconsistency with the idea that Jesus could appear to (and for) His church and later return in judgment. Both of those events would comfortably fit into what we call the “second coming.”
After all, He did it the first time.
I’m happy to announce that my book “A Brief History of the Future” is now available on Amazon as a Kindle download. That makes four of our books on Amazon. And all for the low price of 2.99 each.
“A Brief History of the Future” is a primer in eschatology that serves as a defense for the premillennial, pretribulational view. And you can download it to your Kindle via the following link —
And you can find all four of our books here —
Although I have occasionally been asked about my thoughts concerning the pre-wrath rapture of the church, I have never written or spoken on the topic at any length. Of all the eschatological positions, we share the most common ground with the adherents of the pre-wrath position. Still, since questions continue to come up, I have written an article that explains why I have yet to be convinced of the pre-wrath end-times scheme. For those unfamiliar with pre-wrath, this article will serve as a primer. For those familiar with it, this article will demonstrate some of its strengths and weaknesses. But, all in all, this article explains why I remain unconvinced.
Click the link below to read (or download) the pdf.
Plus, if you’re one of those people who has more time to listen than to read, we have posted an audio version of this article that includes additional information and evidence that is not included in the written version. You can stream or download the audio version here —
July was a busy month. It started in Mesquite and wound up in Chattanooga. I promised to post my notes here on the blog. So, below you’ll find both the audio and notes from each conference.
At the Sovereign Grace Bible Conference in Mesquite, TX. I spoke for three nights. I called the series “Selections from the Gospel of John.”
Part 1 —
Part 2 —
Part 3 —
And here are my notes in PDF format — Mesquite 2015 Notes
At the Sovereign Grace Bible Conference in Chattanooga, TN. I preached a message called “Christ, Our Propitiation.”
And here are my notes for that message. Chattanooga 2015 Notes
How is your day going? You okay?
Nothing that happened today is surprising. It was predictable and predicted. When sinful humans rule over other sinful humans they can only come to sinful conclusions. They have no other option.
It was interesting reading the four dissenting opinions. It’s a rare thing when every dissenting judge writes an opinion. But they did. We have an attorney in our congregation and he sent out the PDF of the decision the moment it came down the pike.
Anyway, what might be missed in all the hoopla about homosexual marriage is that this was essentially a State’s Rights issue. And the four dissenting judges accused the majority of massive judicial over-reach. That’s what’s really at stake. And it’s why states like Texas are already fighting back. Remember, our nation is made up of “united states.” When the federal government or courts remove an individual state’s ability to operate in accordance with its own state constitution, that’s a very real issue.
In other words, this is one shot across the bow of a much larger issue. And that’s what the other four judges are so concerned about.
Meanwhile, I’m a Bible guy. So, I view these things through a spiritual lens.
We’ve been studying the books of Judges, 1&2 Samuel, and 1&2 Kings on Wednesday nights at GCA. Israel’s history is instructive. You may recall that they were initially a theocracy, ruled by the Law of Moses that codified them as a nation of chosen people. But that wasn’t good enough for them. They wanted a king so they could be like their surrounding neighbors. God gave them Saul, a ruinous king who took all the best of their horses, food, gold, and women … you know, the way politicians always do.
Then God gave them David, a man after His own heart. During the time of Solomon, David’s son, the kingdom was taken away from his posterity and Israel was divided.
The succession of kings in the North went from bad to worse. The kings in the South weren’t much better, although they had occasional rays of light. Whenever their enemies advanced on them or they suffered from famine or other disasters, Israel cried to God. And He would deliver them. Then they became comfortable, safe, well-fed … and they’d forget God and go chase after their foreign gods and their fleshly desires. The pattern is consistent.
That’s how humans are, by nature. When they’re in trouble or pain, they cry to God. When they’re fat and sassy, they feel self-assured and they do their own thing – which is usually sinful, given our sinful nature and proclivities.
At the moment, America is (mostly) safe and well-fed. We’re clothed, air-conditioned, and entertained into a stupor. We’re obsessed with celebrities and we think we can solve our problems by banning flags. And America has forgotten (and is erasing) her history.
Manifest destiny. The faith of the founding fathers. The importance of our Christian heritage. The necessity of theology in the well-rounded education. It’s all being erased.
I am reminded of what God told Abraham. When Abraham asked how he could know that the land he was promised would be his and belong to his (as yet unborn) offspring, God told Abe that his descendants would go into a land where they were not known and serve there for four hundred years.
“But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” (Gen. 15:16)
Think about that phrase. The Amorites were living in the land that God promised to the descendants of Abraham. God gave them 400 years to fill up their iniquity – their rebellion against Him. Meanwhile, God was growing the nation of Israel as slaves in Egypt. When they came out, they were more than a million strong. And they conquered the land, just as God said.
I am afraid that America is currently filling up her iniquity. Because there is no immediate price to pay, they think that God doesn’t care, or that judgment doesn’t exist. They think that power in numbers and political correctness trumps things like morality. So, killing babies? No big deal. Homosexual marriage? No sweat. Gender confusion? Only natural.
But, let a plane hit buildings in New York and suddenly the entire Senate is singing “God Bless America” on the Capitol steps.
Then the attacks stop. Now, where were we? Ah, yes … what are those pesky Kardashians up to?
Consider the warning of the iniquitous Amorites. Try to find an Amorite, a Jebusite, or a Hivite today. Tough job. They were enemies of God’s people and they’re all gone.
But, try to find a Jew. Ta-daa! Easy. Why? Because God’s faithful when He calls.
As I keep saying, the only thing we’ve learned from history is that we’ve learned nothing from history.
So, lift up your heads, Christians. God did not topple off the throne today. He’s not in terror of nine humans in black robes. I keep warning that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. This is just another step along the way.
And remember that God is faithful to His people. There are folk dancing in the streets today and celebrating because they think they’ve won something. That’s fine. Dance on. Death is imminent. And equal. Everyone gets one.
And then, the judgment. And that’s when this stuff will really matter.
Look, it’s simple. Either the Bible is true or it’s not. If it is (and I am convinced that it is because of the plethora of evidence), then we need to walk, talk, and live as though it’s true. And have confidence. This world is not our home.
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)
And nothing the world can or will do can change that.
So, let the world celebrate the sinful fashion in which men rule men. It may not matter to them at this exact moment.
But, it will matter one day ….
It has been my long-held contention that God gives His people gifts and talents so that they can better worship and glorify Him. Our gifts are not for the purpose of self-glorification. With that in mind, I am a fan of the poetry of Rebecca Gholson. And now she has released a compilation of her work in book form.
It’s titled “Comfort in Christ,” and that’s a fitting title. It’s a book of uplifting and comforting words that are both Christocentric and theologically sound. Plus, she has a gift of writing in Old English prose without it sounding phony or puffed up.
Some of her works were inspired by sermons, but the pieces that impress me most are the ones drawn directly from Scripture.
“Comfort in Christ” is available via Amazon books and, as of this writing, the Kindle version is free. So, move quickly!
I posted a short comment and a link on the GCA Facebook page and then mentioned those comments in our most recent Wednesday night message. I forget that not everyone who listens to the Salvation by Grace messages is in our Facebook group. I was asked if I would post that information on my blog so that non-FB listeners could see to what I was referring. And I’m happy to oblige.
It went like this —
While I would normally refrain from posting a “news article” in the GCA group, this one is the exception. It’s from Breitbart.com and it states some basic truths that I’ve been saying for a long time. To wit: the church in America has abandoned the distinctives that make it truly Christian.
After citing some facts and figures, Thomas D. Williams PhD. writes:
Though it is impossible to establish a strict causal relationship between the two phenomena of moral liberalism and declining religiosity, the correlation between them is still striking.
What may not seem immediately apparent is why as Americans become increasingly progressive, they are abandoning liberal religious denominations in favor of conservative ones.
One theory, advanced by Arthur E. Farnsley II, a professor of religious studies at Indiana University, is that the more churches resemble society at large in terms of their moral teachings and understanding of the meaning of human existence, the less relevant they are. Why continue to attend church services to hear the same message you get from reigning culture? Religion only makes a difference when it offers an alternative account of reality, distinguishable from secular culture.
It is, in fact, the countercultural religious groups that are holding on to their membership.
Farnsley suggests, therefore, that the more liberal religious groups will continue to lose members and influence “because they are already on the modernist side, meaning many of their core values are expressed in other institutions, including government.”
Much of the decline in membership for mainstream Christianity seems to be the result of a loss of recognizable Christian identity in those churches.
Bingo. You got it. The church that has lost its savor is good for nothing.
Later, Williams writes:
A final trend among mainstream Christian churches has been a progressive lowering of the moral bar, seemingly out of fear of appearing “judgmental” or “hypocritical.” Confusing judgmentalism with the ability to tell right from wrong, many Christians have moved in the direction of withdrawing disapproval from all but the most egregious sins. The lower the bar, the fewer fail to get over it: “I’m okay. You’re okay.” Similarly, some have confused hypocrisy with a simple failure to live up to one’s moral ideals, and have embraced the facile solution of chucking their ideals. Hypocrisy, in fact, becomes impossible when one no longer endorses any moral standards.
That is genuinely insightful. I have long argued that there is a difference between being “judgmental” and practicing proper discernment (what Jesus calls, “proper judgment”). I like William’s differentiation. People confuse judgmentalism with the ability to tell right from wrong. We, as Christians, are expected to know the difference. Too much of modern Christianity has fallen for the world’s very specious argument that practicing biblical discernment is tantamount to being judgmental.
If you’re interested in reading the whole article, here’s the link:
And if you’re interested in hearing the Wednesday night message from 2Kings that includes a reference to these comments, it’s here:
Commenting on his own lack of ordination, and the futility of most modern ordination practices, Charles Haddon Spurgeon once rather famously said —
“Now, it was no doubt the custom to lay on hands at the ordination of Christian ministers by the apostles, and there was an excellent reason for it, for gifts were thereby conveyed to the ordained, and when we can find anybody who can thereby confer some spiritual gift upon us, we shall be glad to have their hands laid on our heads; but empty hands we care not for. Rites cease when their meaning ceases. If practiced any longer they gender to superstition, and are fit instruments of priestcraft. The upholding of the hands of the eldership, when they give their vote to elect a man to the pastorate, is a sensible proceeding, and is, I suspect, all the apostle means when he speaks of the presbytery; but empty hands it seems to me are fitly laid on empty heads, and to submit to an empty ceremony is the idlest of all idle waste of time.” (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit. 1872. Vol. XVIII)
And this is one of those places where Charles and I disagree. Ordination was important in the New Testament and it’s important today. It’s part of the process of setting particular people apart for the work of the ministry — for prayer, study in the word, teaching, and shepherding the flock of God. (Acts 6:4, 1Peter 5:2, Titus 1:5-8)
Personally, I believe that ordination is simply the church’s reaction to what God has already ordained and made obvious. When He separates someone and places them in to His service, He gives them the gifts that are necessary for the work. When the church recognizes that God has gifted someone with the abilities necessary for the work, ordination takes place.
Anyway … why is this on my mind today, of all days? Well, it’s Cinco de Mayo — May 5 — the anniversary of my ordination into the ministry. It was fifteen years ago today that Elders David Morris and D.J. Ward laid hands on my head, prayed over me, and charged me with the work I have been doing ever since. And every year, on this calendar date, I watch the video of my ordination and remember the words that were said over me.
I have always held the concept of ordination in high esteem, ever since my early Lutheran days. So much so that I turned down earlier ordination opportunities, waiting until I was convinced that it was the proper time and that I was being ordained by men with whom I had full agreement. And, by God’s good providence, He introduced me to just such men.
The year after I was ordained we got our building and GCA became a public church. June 5 will be our 14th anniversary. As the time has ticked by, we’ve seen God’s provision at every turn. And today we are as healthy a church as I have ever known.
So, today I pause, reflect, and thank God for His remarkable faithfulness. I could not have orchestrated the events of the last fifteen years. They’ve been marked by great heights and crushing lows. But, He has carried me, without fail, through them all. And not a day passes that I am not reminded of the responsibility that comes with the title “ordained elder.” But I am equally reminded of the strength and unerring love of the God who marked me out for this work.
To God — and God alone — belongs the kingdom, and the power, and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Some verses from the Bible are so embedded in our collective conscience that they take on a meaning of their own — often quite different from the meaning the original author intended. And sometimes the solution to properly understanding a text is as simple as looking closely at the context.
Such is the case with Psalm 107:2 –
“Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary”
This is a favorite verse of preachers who are looking to garner feedback from the congregation. The assumption is that this verse is a complete thought that serves as a directive to the redeemed to say that they are indeed redeemed. Are you redeemed? Yes? Well then, say so!
But the simple fact is that even the most basic exegesis and contextual interpretation leads to a completely different — and more important — conclusion. Here’s what the text actually says —
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary
And gathered from the lands,
From the east and from the west,
From the north and from the south.
They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region;
They did not find a way to an inhabited city.
They were hungry and thirsty;
Their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble;
He delivered them out of their distresses.
He led them also by a straight way,
To go to an inhabited city.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness,
And for His wonders to the sons of men! (Psalm 107:1-8)
So, based on the context, what exactly are the redeemed instructed to say? That the Lord is good and that His lovingkindness is everlasting.
And what’s the evidence that this is true? He gathered His own — His redeemed — from from all corners of the world, delivering them from the hand of their enemy.
In the historic context, this has to do with God delivering Israel out of Egypt. For 40 years they wandered in the wilderness, hungry and thirsty. They cried to the Lord and He delivered them. He led them to the Promised Land and ultimately to Jerusalem, the place where He placed His name.
So what is the proper reaction? They should thank the Lord for His lovingkindness and for His wonders to the sons of men. (That phrase is repeated in verses 15, 21, and 31.)
The Psalm concludes with these words —
Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things,
And consider the lovingkindnesses of the LORD. (Psalm 107:43)
From start to finish, the theme of this Psalm is God’s goodness and lovingkindness. That’s what the redeemed of the Lord are supposed to announce. This Psalm is not advancing a form of self-assurance or confident boasting in our redemption. It is meant to be a reminder of the various ways that God delivered Israel. He is to be glorified for His goodness and His merciful work. The emphasis is on Him, not on the redeemed. The redeemed’s only participation in this whole historical account of God’s redemptive work is to admit to His goodness.
And THAT’s what the redeemed are to “say so.”