A-I feel that a very weak point in this teaching is the lack of definite detail with reference to what you feel is the hope of the Church.
B-What do you consider to be "definite detail" in the teaching of those from whom you differ?
A-Well there are those who believe 1 Thessalonians four sums up their hope, and there we find such details as:
(1) The Lord Himself. (2) The descent into the air. (3) The voice of the archangel. (.4) The trump of God. (5) The resurrection of the dead in Christ. (6) The rapture of both raised and living. (7) The fact that so shall they be ever with the Lord.
Added to this we have in chapter 1:10 the fact that the hope of the Church was expressed in the words, "to wait for His Son from
heaven". In 2:19 we learn that the believer's reward for faithful service is connected with this same coming, and in 3:13 and 5:23 that the goal before God is that our heart may be established unblameable in holiness before the Father at the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.
B-Yes, you certainly have a wealth of detail in the epistle as to the coming of the Lord, but perhaps I interrupt.
A-I was going on to refer to Matthew twenty-four. There the disciples ask, "What shall be the sign of thy coming?" The Lord gives wondrous details dealing with:
(1) The rising of nation against nation.
(5) The fulfillment of Daniel 9:27.
(6) The great tribulation.
(7) The disturbances of the sun, moon and stars, and
(8) The appearing of the sign of the coming of the Son of man.
Here again is detail and definition.
B-And your objection to this particular teaching is . .
A-That there is no detail, but everything is vague. We have been robbed of 1 Thessalonians four and have been given nothing in its place.
B-First as to 1 Thessalonians four. It is not possible to rob any child of God of the teaching of Scripture. What has been done is to show that 1 Thessalonians four is not the hope of the church of the One Body. Each one must decide as to what is their calling. The writer cannot. Attention has certainly been drawn to one or two facts which should be weighed over by every seeker after truth. One is that the word "coming", which is
parousia in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 and Matthew twenty-four is never used of the Lord's Coming in the prison epistles. We have also drawn attention to the fact that the archangel of 1 Thessalonians four is Michael, and this "prince" stands for Israel. Also that when he stands up there will be a resurrection and an unprecedented tribulation, which links 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, Matthew twenty-four and Daniel twelve together. The Apostle Paul at the very end of Acts,
after having written 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Hebrews and Romans, still declares that he was bound "for the hope of Israel" (Acts 28:20).
As to the "vagueness" of the teaching concerning the hope before the church of the One Body, there is no vagueness in Colossians 3:4 and Titus 2:13 as to Who constitutes the hope. In the one case He is described as "Christ Who is our life", and in the other "Our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ". Then there is no vagueness as to what we look for. The same two passages say:
"When Christ Who is our life shall be made manifest, then shall ye also be made manifest with Him IN GLORY".
"Looking for that blessed hope, and the manifesting of THE GLORY of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ."
Now turn if you will to Ephesians one and read verses fifteen to eighteen.
A-(Does so). What do you wish me to notice here?
B-Does Paul teach the saints much detail here as to their hope?
A-No, I cannot say he does.
B-Does he teach them anything at all?
A-Just what do you mean?
B-Does he not rather say, I have come to the hour when my teaching ends, and, when the Lord's teaching must begin? Paul instead of going into details concerning the hope prays that these believers may themselves receive from God a spirit of wisdom and revelation . . . that they may know what is the hope of His calling. Must not your charge of lack of detail be laid to the door of the Apostle himself, nay, to the very inspired Word of God? Nevertheless, there is far more detail enshrined in this passage than may at first appear.
First, it is not quite certain whether Paul intends us to understand "the knowledge of Him", Christ, or "the knowledge of it", the Mystery, "the hope of His calling", God, or "the hope of its
calling". Really there is no final distinction, for Christ sums up the mystery of God. The Apostle by this passage reveals the key to full knowledge. It is this. As you grow in knowledge of the ascended Christ and the related Mystery, so you will understand the nature, sphere, character, glory and blessedness of your hope. Learn what
Christ's present position is as related to the One Body, and you learn where its hope is situated. You must also realize the essential difference between 1 Thessalonians four and Colossians 3:4, "in the air" and "in glory".
Do not go away with the false notion that those who seek to "live . . . looking for the blessed hope" feel that in exchanging the words "in the air" for "in glory" they have exchanged something real for something vague. Do not think that "to be manifested with Him in glory" is less blessed than to be "for ever with the Lord". The so-called "vagueness" is entirely in harmony with the character of the Mystery. If you believe that you have any part or lot in the church of the One Body I cannot do more or better than commend you to pray the prayer of Ephesians 1:15-23.
A-I appreciate the fact that the word parousia, which is translated "coming" many times in the
N.T., is confined to the earlier epistles of Paul, James, Peter, 1 John and Matthew, but I feel that there is a great deal of teaching to be gathered by noticing the different titles of the Lord that are associated with it.
B-You think that possibly the titles will indicate that the parousia coming may be the hope of the One Body as well?
A-I do rather, for you will remember that in 1 Thessalonians four we do not read "the Son of Man shall descend from heaven with a
shout", but "the Lord".
B-Your suggestion is a valuable one, but whether your deductions are true must await investigation. Let us turn up the passages and see what we can learn.
A-Let us start at Matthew twenty-four. The occurrences are in verses 27,30,37 and 39, and the title used is "the Son of Man". The next reference is 1 Corinthians 15-23. There the title is "Christ the
firstfruits". There are four occurrences in 1 Thessalonians, viz. 2:19, 3:13, 4:15, and 5:23. Here the titles are "our Lord Jesus Christ" and "the Lord". In 2 Thessalonians 2:1 and 8 we have the same two titles again. James 5:7,8 give us the one title, "the Lord", 2 Peter 1:16 "the Lord Jesus Christ", and 3:4, looking back to verse two, "the Lord and
Saviour". 1 John 2:28 reads "His coming", and I cannot really see with what title the pronoun is connected.
B-That is quite a commendable analysis of the subject. Shall we see what these titles teach us? I suppose you have no difficulty in fixing the Scriptural association of the title "Son of Man"?
A -As far as I have gone with the subject it appears that Daniel 7:13,14 is the scene at the back of this title.
B-Yes, let us read the verses:
"I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed".
Soon after uttering the prophecy of Matthew twenty-four the Lord, standing before the council, said:
"Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven".
A -Is there not a reference to this in the Revelation?
B-Yes, in chapter fourteen:
"And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud One sat like unto the Son of man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle" (Rev. 14:14).
A-I think I am quite clear over the prophetic usage of this title. The titles however that are used in the epistles are those that perplex me somewhat.
B-Let us come to 1 Corinthians 15-23, "Christ the firstfruits". In verse twenty we read, "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept". This seems to give the clue to the title in verse twenty-three. In all its other occurrences it pledges a harvest. Here in 1 Corinthians fifteen the context speaks of Adam at the one extreme, and God all in all at the other: This scope of course overleaps all barriers and dispensational distinctions. The period with which this
parousia is connected is fixed rather by verse fifty-four, "When . . . then . . ." while verse fifty-two associates it with "the last.
A -Yes, but the title that I am most concerned about is
that used in 1 Thessalonians four, "the Lord". This seems to be so related to the church of the One Body, "one Lord" coming so prominently in Ephesians four.
B-I think you will find that the title "Lord" is a title that covers Gentile as well as Jew. For example: you remember the woman of Canaan who first approached Christ with the title "Son of David"? but when she realized the dispensational limitation of that title, she used the wider title "Lord" (Matt. 15:21-28). Again, when Peter was sent to Cornelius and perceived that the purpose of God's grace went outside the confines of Israel, he said:
"The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ, (He is Lord of all)" (Acts 10:36).
The use of this title in 1 Thessalonians four would not necessarily mean more than that Gentile believers were included, but could not of itself decide whether it included the church of the Mystery. I think you would discover more of the character of this
parousia, and whether it included the hope of the One Body, by observing the setting of the occurrences as well as the titles used.
A-I must confess that when I first noticed the use of the title "Lord", I felt that I had found a weak place in your argument, but I realize that none of the titles after all do decide the question I raised. I will collect the various settings and perhaps we shall arrive at something more definite.
B-Yes, do, and see that you pursue the truth for its own sake, and not for the purpose of finding a flaw in the argument of somebody else. That often prejudices the study.
A-I have collected together various items that constitute the immediate contexts of the word
parousia in its various occurrences and should be pleased for any help you can give me as to their effect upon our understanding of the Lord's Coming.
Will you go over the list first so that we may have the scope of the inquiry before us?
(1) Matt. 24:3
"The end of the world".
(2) Matt. 24:27, 29
"As the lightning."
"Immediately after the tribulation."
(3) Matt. 24:37
"The days of Noah."
(4) Matt. 24:39
(5)1 Cor. 15:28
"The end....God all in all."
(6) 1 Thess. 2:19
"The crown of rejoicing."
(7) 1 Thess. 3:13
"Coming with all His saints."
(8) 1 Thess. 4:15
"Those alive and waiting shall not prevent
those who are asleep."
(9) 1 Thess. 5:23
"The whole spirit, soul, body be preserved
(10) 2 Thess. 2:2
"The day of the Lord."
(11) 2 Thess. 2:8
" The destruction of the wicked."
(12) James 5:7
"Patience needed."" The early and latter
(13) 2 Pet. 1:16-19
" The transfiguration." "Prophecy."
(14) 2 Pet. 3:4
"Scoffers in the last days deny."
B-This is a fairly formidable list, and will occupy more time than we can give at one sitting. Let us however make a commencement with the references in Matthew twenty-four.
"Tell us when shall these things be? what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?" (verse 3).
"These things" have reference to the destruction of the temple buildings. "The end of the world" would be better translated "the gathering point just before the end of the age". This latter passage we may have to consider more carefully at another time. The immediate question is What shall be the sign of Thy coming? The very first thing the Lord does in answering this threefold question is to warn against deception:
"Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in My name, saying, I am the Messiah, and shall deceive many"
(verses 4 and 5).
A -What do you think will be the character of their deception?
B-These false christs will have false signs, "And shall show great signs" (24).
A-Wherein will the sign of the Lord's Coming differ from the false signs?
B- Principally in its magnitude:
"For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth teen unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be"
This indicates the world-wide nature of this sign. The next passage fixes its date, and gives further details concerning the sign in the heavens.
A-Pardon me, but are you one of those who believe in fixing dates for the Lord's Coming?
B-If you mean that any man can know "the day and the hour", most certainly not, but if you mean whether
the-parousia will take place before or after the tribulation, yes, we can speak definitely:
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days" . . . (29).
This refers back to verse twenty-one, which is the "great tribulation" referred to in Daniel twelve.
A-How do you know that the great tribulation of Matthew twenty-four is the same as that of Daniel twelve? It does not say so.
Well tell me just exactly what it does say, and I will tell you just exactly what Daniel twelve says.
A-"Such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matt. 24:21).
B-"Such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time" Can you possibly have two separate tribulations answering to these descriptions?
A-No, I see that they must refer to the same event.
B-So then the sign of the Lord's parousia is not seen till after the great tribulation of Daniel twelve; and if that Coming is the hope of the church of which you are a member, that church must share the hope of Israel. The greatness of the sign is seen by its forerunners:
"The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken, and THEN shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the land mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matt. 24:29,30).
A-Why do you say "tribes of the land"? I read "tribes of the earth".
B-The passage refers to Zechariah 12:12, where it speaks of the mourning of the families of Israel after they look upon Him Whom they have pierced. Revelation 1:7 refers to the same event. The Coming in the clouds of heaven refers to Daniel seven where the Son of man is given dominion, glory and a kingdom that all people, nations and languages should serve Him. The references to the sun, moon and stars are taken from Isaiah:
"For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine"
A-I notice that the "day of the Lord" is mentioned several times. Also that it is cruel with wrath, and the day of fierce anger. In fact the whole context speaks of a day of judgment.
B-Do you notice anything of importance?
A-There is so much, what do you intend particularly?
B-Do you see any mention of any particular city coming into judgment at the same time?
"Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited . . ."
B-Well, you see where this leads us. This parousia of the Lord is not only dated as taking place after the great tribulation, but as being connected with the Lord's final judgment upon Babylon.
A-But suppose "Babylon" means Rome?
B-Is Rome the glory of the Chaldees' excellency? I commend to you the other passage quoted by the Lord in Matthew 24:29, viz. Isaiah 34:4, noting also verses eight to ten.
A-I will certainly look this passage up. I had no idea that the Coming of the Lord in Matthew twenty-four had so much to do with
O.T. prophecy and the people of Israel.
The Days of Noah and the "Overthrow" of Gen. 1:2
A-Shall we resume our study of the contexts of the word parousia?
B-Yes, let us notice the two remaining passages in Matthew twenty-four, viz. verses thirty-seven and thirty-nine.
"As the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be".
Verse thirty-nine is much the same.
B-You say that verse thirty-nine is "much the same", and you are right; but I just wonder whether you fully realize the point of these two verses. In what particular will the Coming of the Son of man be "as the days of Noah"?
A-I suppose you mean that the believer like Noah will be saved in the hour of judgment.
B-That is hardly the chief factor here. Look at verse thirty-six:
"But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only;"
but the Coming of the Son of Man shall be as the days of Noah, which came suddenly upon a world taken up with the affairs of everyday life.
"They knew not until the flood came, and took them all away" (24:39),
so the feature that most prominently stands out here is the unexpectedness of the Coming.
"Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come" (42).
You will remember that the conclusion of the parable of the ten virgins strikes the same note (see Matt. 25:13). If I may suggest a departure from the order of your list of references, it would be a fitting sequel to consider here 2 Peter 3:4.
A-By all means, I do not consider that the order of the books as we have them is binding upon us.
B-Perhaps you will read verse three as well.
"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? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation".
B-What do you understand by the words "Where is the promise of His coming"?
A-I understand them to mean that the scoffers were not mindful of the words spoken by the prophets and the Lord Himself, as verse two urges, and consequently did not know where to look for those Scriptures which referred to the parousia
of the Lord.
B-I hardly think you have caught the meaning. These scoffers certainly will be ignorant of Scripture, but Peter means to say that they will scoff at the idea that the
parousia will ever be fulfilled, as though they said, "Where is the
fulfillment of this much vaunted promise?" Now- notice the way in which the Apostle deals with the implied failure of the Lord to keep His promise. Why does he go right back to the beginning of creation?
A-Frankly I cannot see any connexion.
B-You will notice that the Apostle is explicit. It is the beginning of creation.
A -Yes, I see that.
B-Where would you look for any reference to that?
A-I should turn to Genesis one, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth".
Well, the word "continue" in 2 Peter 3:4 means "to continue right through without a break". When you read on in Genesis one, do you find that the creation of the first verse "continues right through"?
A-No, I believe verse two speaks of an overthrow, and that God did not create the earth without form and void, but it became so.
B-I See, you have grasped that much. You therefore can answer the question The creation did not continue right through without a break. There was a Divine interruption.
A -Yes, but what has that to do with the Second Coming of Christ?
B -Why this. Just as these scoffers ridicule the teaching of Genesis 1:2, saying that there never was an "overthrow",
that God has never intervened in judgment, so they argue, He never will. You will find these same scoffers in Psa. 50:21:
"These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself, but I WILL REPROVE THEE".
You remember I left with you Isaiah thirty-four when we last met? Did you give it an examination?
A-Yes, I did, and now that you mention it I remember that the condition called tohu and
bohu (without form and void) of Genesis 1:2 is to be repeated, for it says:
"He shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion (tohu), and the stones of emptiness
(bohu)" (Isa. 34:11).
B-You answer your own question therefore as to the connexion between Genesis 1:2 and the Coming of the Lord.
A-Yes, but I had never seen it in that light before. I had not realized that there is to be a repetition of Genesis 1:2 at the Lord's Coming.
B-In 2 Peter 3:9 Peter returns to the charge of the scoffers:
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness".
Whatever the reason may be that causes the apparent delay, slackness is not that reason. For one thing Peter sees the longsuffering of the Lord waiting as it did in the days of Noah, and links the
parousia with the day of the Lord (verse 10).
You will remember that Peter refers his readers to the writings of Paul for fuller exposition of the purpose of God in the long interval that exists between the First and the Second Coming.
This is an inspired admission that Paul's ministry occupies the interval that has become so prolonged by reason of Israel's blindness. All the references to the parousia
in Paul's writings occur in those epistles written before Acts twenty-eight. After having written 1 Thessalonians four Paul can say that he was bound with a chain "for the hope of Israel". There is one clear distinct character given to the
parousia in all its occurrences, which severs it most completely from the hope of the one body. Had you continued, and brought into prominence the references in 2 Thessalonians as well as those in 1 Thessalonians you would have seen the close association this hope has with:
(1) The day of the Lord, and (2) The man of sin.
James, too, who uses the word parousia of the hope, addresses his epistle to the twelve tribes of Israel, and not to the church of the One Body.