CHRISTS COMING AGAIN: BOTH SECRET AND OPEN
By A. G. TILNEY
Without being over-confident and dogmatic, may we
not ask whether truth is not often twofold? It is pleasing to be in the right, but merely
self-pleasing to be the only one right. We
can afford to agree that in the world there are tares as well as wheat, for the
earth is cursed as well as blessed; in the Church there is both gift and
reward, for there is both faith and works; in the Word there is Calvinistic
certainty of gift and Arminian uncertainty of reward. The human race is threefold - consisting of
Jew, Gentile and the
Now there is no doubt that Christ is going to be seen. Every eye shall see Him (Rev. 1: 7): therefore His coming will be visible and universal; it will be like the lightning (Matt. 24: 27): therefore unmistakable. But will the Lord appear to everyone at once? Since humanity consists of Church, of Jew, and Gentile (or Greek), and since judgment begins at the house of God (1 Pet. 4: 17), is it not likely that the Lord will be seen by His house before He is seen by the others, to whom, therefore, He will for a time be and remain invisible?
To believers - men of faith - the Lord says: Watch! That is, keep awake, alert, be on the look out; be ready, for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh (Matt. 24: 42-51). He also tells the Church that He is coming as a thief comes - furtively, secretly, unsuspected, unknown, till too late; and then, conspicuous by absence and loss (Rev. 3: 3). The comparison is Christs, not ours as a thief, He repeats (Rev. 16: 15). Next door they will know and see nothing at all until they read about it in the paper; and in our own house we shall see only if we watch for His down-coming as Elisha watched for his masters up-going (2 Kings 2: 10) and received rapturing Spirit-power.
Now since our Lords coming is both visible (lightning-like) and also invisible (thief-like), does it not seem to follow that it will comprise two parts or stages, with the invisible part - for His people - to the air (1 Thess 4: 17), prior to the visible part - with His people - to the earth? Hence we read, To them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation (Hebrew 9: 28). Must not this imply that those who do not look for Him will not immediately see Him? And what about those who do not love His appearing? We can think of these parts of the Son of mans coming: His sudden departure from heaven - His swift descent to the air - His sudden arrival or coming proper - His prolonged visit or stay in the air, which is often translated coming, though its Greek name parousia (cf. para‑llel, and esse-nce) means being alongside, or presence; then He will in time leave the air, descend to earth, arrive there, stay there for judgment and rule.
At His first coming the Christ appeared only to those who looked
for redemption in
Just as parousia (presence) needs to be distinguished from erchomai (arrival, cf. Luke 12: 4, 5; 18: 5; Rev. 3: 3), so does epiphany (often a private manifestation of appearing) differ from apocalypse (usually a public revelation); it needs to be borne in mind that the English of the Authorised Version is in places not sufficiently exact or precise for careful Bible study: e.g., end of the world should be end of the age.
The harvest is, we are told, the end of the age, and will probably take a considerable time, just as literal reaping is from the beginning of barley harvest to the end of harvest wheat with the sequence of first fruits, general but serial in-gathering, and, finally, corners of the field. Christ is the first fruits of resurrection; those who are Christs will be gathered not at His Coming, but during His judicial Parousia - Presence (en su parousia, 1 Cor. 15: 2, 3), every man in his own order (presumably of ripeness). Though the change takes but a moment, it is not, therefore, quite certain that all will be changed in one and the same moment. It will take a considerable time for the Fanner to thoroughly purge His floor - judging (perhaps) a few hundred million believers at a few minutes each would take, if one after the other, half a century. The intimate sessions of the Bema, fittingly, will probably be held in camera. With Christians gone, and Christ still for a time invisible, iniquity will quickly develop and flourish, and the man of sin will at length show himself on earth and gain a great following with counterfeit miracles and all deceivableness of unrighteousness. Meanwhile, in the air, where mingling streams of rapt and resurrected Christians meet the Righteous judge, there is, apparently, the epiphany IN the Paronsia, before the apocalypse OF the Paronsia. Hence we read, God shall show in His times (1 Tim. 6: 15) the Lord Jesus Christ who shall judge the quick and the dead at (1) His Appearing, (2) His Kingdom (2 Tim. 4 : 1), in which the righteous shall shine forth like the sun, when joint-suffering joint-heirs with Christ shall be revealed glorified together.