Is the Coming of Christ Imminent?

        Webster says that the word "imminent" means, "that which threatens to happen immediately." By speaking of the imminent coming of Christ, it is meant that He is likely to come at any moment. It had always been my conviction until recently that Christ's coming was imminent. Most of the true people of God today hold to the same conviction. Yet, the evidence is exceedingly abundant to the contrary.
        Before we begin to examine the proof passages I want to make a few comments relative to the frequent command of Christ for us to be very earnestly and eagerly watching for His return. Matthew chapters 24 and 25; Mark chapter 13; and Luke chapters 12 and 21, especially encourage us to be constantly on the watch for the Master's return. By no means should we lessen the force of such very important commands of the Master, but to emphasize the urgency of the same. A full explanation as to why it is most important for us to be watching for the Lord's return will not be given in this work, though such will be done in a later work, the Lord willing. It would take by far too much space to give a good explanation of such things in this work. Nevertheless, enough will be given here to set the reader's thoughts on the right line of study.
        The one special thing that needs to be established at the present concerns the time when the Lord's disciples were to begin to keep this command to watch. Just when were they to begin watching for the Lords' return? A full understanding of this command will reveal that they were to begin watching the minute Christ gave the command, although the command was especially applicable to the time after the Lord left the earth and ascended back to heaven. We can say that it was not especially applicable until after the Holy Spirit came upon the church on the first Pentecost after the Lord's resurrection.
        Please let me make this emphatic. Were the saints to begin watching for the Lord's return (after the Spirit came) in the same manner that we should be watching today? Were the saints of the first century to be looking for the Lord's return in the same manner that we are today? Surely we must acknowledge that if the second coming of Christ is imminent today it was also imminent in the first century. If it was not imminent in the first century, it is not imminent to us today. Did the apostle Paul, along with Peter, James and John and the other apostles, look upon the Lord's coming as imminent in their life-time? Will it suffice if I emphatically prove that the coming of the Lord was not imminent to the apostles? Please re-read the preceding question and answer it in your own mind before going further. Will it be acceptable if I emphatically prove that the Lord's coming was not imminent during the first century? Are you willing to let the Spirit teach you as you read such un-answerable proofs? Are you willing to search for the true significance of what the Lord meant by being always in the spirit of expectancy for His glorious return? May the Lord reveal to you as you continue to read just how willing you really are to reason with His Blessed Holy Spirit. If I do not speak according to the written Word, it is nothing; but if I do speak according to the written Word, then the Spirit will speak also, for He always accompanies the Word.


        The second paragraph above brings us to the first important thought I want to present. It is certain that the disciples were to be watching from the time the Holy Spirit came upon the church. But were they actually to be looking for the Lord to return to the earth at any moment from that date? Let us call to mind that the Lord had just given the command that after the Holy Spirit came upon them they were to be His witnesses to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8; Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:47-49). If these disciples understood the Lord, then they knew that they (as churches) were to carry the gospel to every nation on earth before the Lord returned (Matt. 23:14). How could they expect the Lord to return before they through the Holy Spirit had accomplished this mission? Surely the Lord did not intend to return until the mission was fulfilled, for He said that the end would not come until such was done; and surely He meant for the churches to do this work. Some will say that such would destroy the reason for watching. That sounds like a man who says that the teaching of eternal security will cause people to go out and get a fill of sin after they have believed in Christ without any fear of judgment. No, the teaching of the security of the believer, if properly understood, will cause the believer to appreciate and love the master even the more. This principle is also true with the coming of the Lord, as it is with any other truth of the Word.
        Look more closely at Acts 1:8 for a moment. "But he shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Observe first that they were not to leave Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came upon them. They were not to be looking for the Lord to return personally before that time.
        Second, mark that after the Spirit came they were to carry the gospel to the "uttermost part of the earth." We cannot possibly deny that the Lord meant for them to fulfill His commission before His return. He certainly meant for them to understand that He would not return until they had reached the last end of the earth with the gospel. If any of them looked for the Lord's return before such a time, then they were not acting in obedience to the Lord's own instructions.
        Third, it was not until Acts 10 that the first Gentiles were brought into the church. This was nearly ten years after the time of the Lord's ascension back to heaven.
        Fourth, the first missionary trip of Paul and Barnabas, who were the missionaries to the nations, began probably about A. D. 45, some twelve years after the Lord's ascension. Paul's second missionary trip began about A. D. 53 or 54. The third trip began about A. D. 57 or 58. The gospel spread throughout the Roman empire a little faster than this, of course, but this will help us to better see the extent of its reach among the Gentiles. According to this first proof we can see that the disciples could not possibly expect the Lord's return sooner than some thirty years after the Lord's ascension.
        Some very assuring words are found in John 21:18-19 where Jesus told Peter that he would live to be an old man and then die. "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by What death he should glorify God..." We learn here that the apostle Peter was to die before the Lord returned. Certainly we would not say that these disciples believed that Peter would die after the Lord returned. It is folly to say that the Lord told Peter about how he would die without Peter and the other disciples having an understanding of the same, at least after the Spirit came on Pentecost. Since they knew that Peter would die after he became old, surely they were not expecting the Lord to come as long as Peter was living. Nevertheless, they were to be watching just as much as we should be watching today.
        The remainder of this chapter is also quite revealing in this respect. After Jesus had told Peter how he would die, he said to Peter, "Follow me." Peter, observing that John was also following, complained to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" (John 21:19-23). From these words we draw the following conclusions: (1). The disciples did understand that Peter would die. (2). From the statement of Jesus concerning John, the disciples gathered that John would not die. From this it is inferred that they believed that all the rest of them would die. (3). John indicates that he would die the same as Peter.
        Let us follow this same thought with a few other passages. Look at Matt. 16:28 (Compare also with Mark 9:1 and Luke 9:27). "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom." Here we learn that the Lord, while still with His disciples, informed them that they would ALL DIE. He said that He would show some of them the kingdom of God before they died, and the force of the statement was that they would all die. Again I say that they understood as well and maybe better than we that they would not be dying after the Lord returned, for they were to be glorified and sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel after the second coming of Christ (Matt. 19:28). Thus, none of them actually expected the Lord's return during their lifetimes. This sets the Second Coming, at its earliest date, at the end of the first century, for the death of John was not until near the end of the first century. One may also study Rev. 2:10 in connection with this thought.
        By no means can we resist the force of the lesson which Paul gave to the Thessalonian brethren. Let us once again meditate upon these very significant words. "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition:" (II Thess. 2:1-3). Relative to these verses we may draw the following conclusions:
        (1). These saints were undergoing severe tribulations and persecutions which provided one of the occasions for this epistle (chapter 1).
        (2). It is most reasonable to judge that these brethren had been taught by Paul and others concerning the great tribulation which will come upon the saints and Jews just before the Lord returns. The frequent references to the Lord's coming in the first epistle to them, especially the language of I Thess. 5:1-3, strongly encourages this judgment.
        (3). Verse 2 gives evidence that these brethren were being troubled and in some way hindered by their thinking that the Lord's coming was imminent. As a missionary on a foreign field, I am personally aware of the fact that some missionaries are encouraged to be careless partially as a result of believing that the return of the Lord is imminent. This, of course, is not always the case, nor is it the chief reason for such carelessness. How grievous it is to observe what emphasis is put upon the amount of work done, rather than the quality and stability of the work. Brethren are running up and down whole continents making converts, only to turn them lose in the midst of the greatest religious confusion that has ever existed in the history of the world. The great apostle Paul was never helpful to such confusion by such careless work. His earnest desire was to present every man perfect (mature) in Christ Jesus (Col 1:28). He always remained with his converts as long as possible in order to establish them in the faith, which would serve to protect them against evil seducers who were waxing worse and worse. The careless activities of many brethren today are a result of numerous things, one of which is the wrong understanding of what Jesus meant by watching for His return.
        (4). Paul was urgent in his effort to convince these brethren that the Lord's return was not imminent. He told them not to be "soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us ...Let no man deceive you by any means..."
        (5). Paul insisted that two things were absolutely necessary before the Second Advent. First, there must come a great falling away. This falling away was future to them, though it is a present matter with us today. Second, the man of sin (the Antichrist) must be revealed through his defiling the temple. The fact that the Antichrist must come into power before the Master returns is just as certain today as it was when Paul wrote it. We shall not be received up into the Master's glorious presence until we have experienced the blasphemous presence of the Antichrist for 3 1/2 years -- "LET NO MAN DECEIVE YOU BY ANY MEANS."
        (6). The coming of Christ which Paul had in mind is clearly the time when these zealous brethren would be gathered together to the Lord (verse 1). This gathering together to the Lord is most assuredly the one of which Paul had taught them in his first epistle (I Thess. 4:13-18).
        Turn now to Matt. 25:14-31 where the Lord speaks of giving to one man five talents, to another man two, and to another man one. He told the disciples how these servants were instructed to be about their master's business until he returned. Two of these servants were faithful to these instructions but the third one was very careless. Then in verse 19 Jesus said, "After a long time the Lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them." The Lord meant for the disciples to understand that there would be a "long time" between His leaving and His returning. Surely the disciples understood this, or else it would not have been said to them, nor recorded later by them.
        From Matt. 24:1-2 and Luke 21:20-24 we learn that Jesus taught the apostles that because of the great sins and unbelief of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the temple of Jerusalem would be torn down flat on the ground, without one stone being left upon another before His return. We know that the Lord meant for them to understand that all this would happen before His return. It is evident that they did not understand fully at the time He told them, but what shall we say about the time after the Spirit came? Certainly the disciples were not to understand the Lord's return as being imminent until after the destruction of Jerusalem (which came in A.D. 70). Must the Lord's coming be imminent to us if it was not to the saints before Jerusalem was destroyed? Of course not. We must understand that Christ did not make prophecies that could not come to pass, and it is certain that there will be no destruction of Jerusalem after He comes again.
        Please look further at Luke 21:20-24, a passage of great significance in the present discussion. Jesus also informed the disciples that at the time Jerusalem would be destroyed, the jews would "fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled." This extends the whole matter far beyond the destruction of Jerusalem, even hundreds of years. Let me emphasize that the disciples certainly understood that this would not be permitted after the Lord's return, for He Himself will reign from Jerusalem after that time. Did the Lord actually mean what He said? Is it possible that the Lord could make prophecies that would not come to pass? Every true servant of God must abhor even the thought of such a possibility. Then this makes it absolutely necessary for us to acknowledge that the Lord's return was not imminent during the first century, and if the disciples (even those who by inspiration recorded these things) understood the teachings of Christ, then they did not expect the Lord's return at any moment. Of course they longed for Him with great anticipation, but they most certainly knew that there were certain things that must come to pass before the Lord would return. Since all the apostles definitely understood that there were a number of things in their day which had to take place before the Lord's return, then there is not the least sin in our understanding that there are still certain things revealed in the scriptures which must take place before the Lord returns.
        Observe further from Matt. 24:7; Mark 13:8, and Luke 21:10 that Christ taught the disciples to look for wars and rumors of wars; for nation to rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom before His return. Please mark that there is a plurality of wars, and risings of nations and kingdoms against nations and kingdoms. The fulfillment of this was not experienced in the first century, and thus again we are forced to understand that the apostles did not look upon the second coming of Christ as imminent. The disciples did not experience any kind of war until near A.D. 70, when the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem.
        Also in Matt. 24:7-8; Mark 13:7-8; and Luke 21:11 we learn that the disciples were to understand that there would be, in addition to that mentioned in the above paragraph, many famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places before the Master returned. Then the statement is added that "all these are the beginning of sorrows." This unquestionably demands that the expectancy for the Lord's coming was to be far in the future after many things had come to pass. After the destruction of Jerusalem there were to be wars and rumors of wars, with nation after nation and kingdom after kingdom rising up in the places where former nations and kingdoms were. But after all this there was to be a much longer wait because these things were merely the beginning of sorrows. Without a doubt the Holy spirit, upon the destruction of Jerusalem and subsequent events, comforted the hearts of the churches by reminding them of the words of the Lord relative to such things, and further reminded them that the Lord said such things were merely the beginning of sorrows, thus strengthening them and preparing them for the many multitudes of sorrows and afflictions that were to come before the Master's return.
        Is it not perfectly clear that the Lord meant for the disciples, who had so eagerly asked about when His coming would be, to understand that they were not to look for His coming as an imminent thing, but that many, many things would take place over a period of many years before He returned? Anyone who can read the 24th chapter of Matthew and relative passages in the other Gospels and who understands the Lord to mean anything other than this certainly has his mind closed to the true impression the Lord desired to leave upon the minds of the disciples. Why should the Lord continue to mention certain things that would necessarily come to pass, and then make the statement that "the end is not yet," and that such things are merely the "beginning of sorrows" that the saints must suffer before the glorious coming and establishment of the kingdom? The reason is that the Lord was preparing them for a long wait. He told them these things in order that they might find greater strength at the time such things befell them. The fulfilling of prophecy is a comforting thing. It is exceedingly comforting to be conscious of the fact that the Lord knew when He was on earth exactly what would befall his disciples down through the ages, and that he had already prepared their deliverance from, or their strength and comfort to endure, such things.
        When the infidels and modernists set themselves in array against the Word of the Almighty, what great assurance and comfort it gives us to point out to them the fulfillment of prophecies right before their eyes! The prophecies concerning the regathering of Israel into their own land are being gloriously fulfilled at the present time. Such things give us zeal, energy, and determination. They prepare us for the hardships and trials that come upon us daily. They humble us by their victory.
        Further study of these three chapters just mentioned reveals that Christ told the disciples they would be delivered up before kings and rulers, at which time they would be hated, afflicted and killed in all nations (Matt. 24:9; Mark 13:9; and Luke 21:12). Here again we learn that the disciples were to be put to death, not in just one nation, but in "all nations." They were to be looking for these things to happen BEFORE the Lord's return.
        Jesus also said that they were to expect many false Christs to arise saying, "I am Christ," before His return (Matt. 24:4-5; Mark 13:5-6; and Luke 21:8). The apostles had trouble with antichrists (I John 2), but to my knowledge the Scriptures say nothing of their having trouble with false christs. There is a slight difference between antichrists and false christs. A person may be an antichrist without claiming that he himself is Christ. A false Christ is both. Christ said that the disciples would see the time when there would be "many" false christs who would actually say, "I am Christ." Therefore the disciples were not to expect Christ to return until they experienced the presence of many who claimed to be the Christ with whom they had walked and talked, and had handled with their hands; the One who died on the cross for their sins, was buried, but arose the third day; the One whose pierced hands and feet they had viewed with their own eyes.
        In connection with the things already mentioned, there were other outstanding developments which were (and still are) to occur. Jesus instructed His disciples that there would be fearful sights and great signs from heaven before his return (Luke 21:11). The saints have never witnessed anything of this nature yet, and therefore they are still future even to us today. As the disciples were to expect such things before the Master returned, so we must still look for these prophecies to be fulfilled before that most blessed hour. Since this is true shall we take our fill of sin? I will be quick and frank to say that, among the many other reasons, I personally do not want to be saved "so as by fire," (I Cor 3:13-15). It is a very wonderful thing to know that we have eternal life and will never come into judgment with reference to hell, yet there are a lot of us who need to learn more about the "terror of the Lord" relative to the judgment seat of Christ (II Cor 5:10-11). The man who says there will be no tears for the "unfruitful" at the judgment of the eternally saved certainly does encourage indulgence in sin.
        The Lord further taught that there would come the time when the love of God's people would wax cold and a great falling away would come before His return (Matt. 24:12; II Thess. 2). Some have desired to apply this falling away to lost people, yet the love of lost people has never been anything but cold toward the Lord. They have always hated the light (John 3:19-20). What shall we say about the love of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, the Romans, etc? Was the love of such people ever anything but cold? "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God" (I John 4:7). We must understand that it was concerning the love of saved people that Jesus was speaking. The reader may also look at Matt. 13:33; 25:5; Rev. 3:14-18; etc., where the same truths are taught. A correct analysis of the parables of Matt. 13 will reveal the same truths as are set forth in the foregoing pages.
        If the reader will again study carefully all the scriptures and comments concerning the day of the Lord it should be made clear that the disciples understood before their death that the Lord's coming would be at the end of the sixth millennium of man's history. There is a very marked and clear significance to the terms "last days" and "last day." Observe in Acts 2:17; II Tim. 3:11; Heb. 1:1-2; James 5:3; II Pet. 3:3, etc., that the plural is used because the time includes the fifth and sixth millenniums. Now look at such passages as John 6:39, 40, 44, 52; 11:24; 12:48; and the many passages mentioning the day of the Lord, where the singular is used with meaningful purpose. Why should such pointed references be made to a "last day?" The only correct answer is that it signifies the seventh millennium. The apostle Peter makes this quite clear in two different passages. In Acts 2:17-20 we find that he made reference to both terms, and used them in such a way that we should not misunderstand. The "last days" included from the time Peter spoke until the end of the seventh millennium, though specific reference is to the fifth and sixth millenniums. The great and notable "day" of the Lord is the seventh millennium. Now, follow this same procedure in II Pet. 3:3-12. It is in the "last days" that scoffers were to come, but the "day of judgment," "the day of the Lord," or "the day of God," is the last millennium, therefore it is referred to in the singular. Peter makes it even more clear by saying that a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day to the Lord. It is true that Peter said this to emphasize that it is not necessary for the Lord to get in a hurry, for time is nothing with Him, yet if we fail to see the further significance (possibly the main significance) of Peter's mentioning the "days" and the "day" in such exactness, then we miss a very great and blessed truth.
        I would like here to give a quotation from a book written by J. Louis Guthrie ("THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST" -- page 21), in which he quotes "from the letter of Barnabas, Chapter 13, verses 4 to 10."
        "4. `Consider, my children, what that signifies, he finished them in six days. The meaning of it is this: that in six thousand years the Lord will bring all things to an end.
        "5. For one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, as he himself testifies, saying, Behold this day shall be as a thousand years. Therefore, children, in six days, that is, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, shall all things be accomplished.
        "6. And what is that he saith, and he rested the seventh day: he meaneth this: that when his Son shall come, and abolish the season of the Wicked one, and judge the ungodly; and shall change the sun and the moon and the stars, then he shall gloriously rest in the seventh day.
        "7. He lastly adds: Thou shalt sanctify it with clean hands and a pure heart. Wherefore, we are greatly deceived if we imagine any one can now sanctify that day which God has made holy, without having a pure heart in all things.
        "8. Behold therefore, he will truly sanctify it with blessed rest, when we (having received the righteous promise, when iniquity shall be no more, all things shall be renewed by the Lord) shall be able to sanctify it, being ourselves first made holy.
        "9. Lastly he saith unto them: Your new moons and your sabbaths I cannot bear them. Consider what he means by it: The sabbaths, says he, which ye now keep are not acceptable unto me, but those which I have made; When resting from all things I shall begin the eighth day, that is, the beginning of another world.
        "10. For which cause we observe the eighth day with gladness, in which Jesus rose from the dead: and having manifested himself to his disciples ascended into heaven'."
        These thoughts should help us to understand that the early disciples did not look upon the Lord's coming as imminent. There are some brethren who may "raise a fuss" when they read these things, yet many of these same brethren will teach that everything will be just fine when the Lord comes whether one has been earnestly watching or not. It sounds like double - talk. The word "watch" does not mean for us to gather on a hilltop somewhere and stand around with our heads in the air. To be watching for the Lord means to be about the work which He has given us to do; carrying the gospel to the ends of the earth. The same word "watch" is used of the pastor of the church in the figure of a shepherd who feeds, waters, and protects his flock (Heb. 13:17). Paul was watching when he was seeking to present his converts perfect before the Lord (Col. 1:28). We are watching for the Lord when we are praying with the lost, preaching the Word, listening to the preaching of the Word, etc.


        Every student of prophecy will do well to follow very closely the harmony between Matt. 24; Mark 13; and Luke 21 (including Luke 17:26-37). A good harmony of the gospels will be very handy here. As we study these observations it should become abundantly clear that these chapters are generally in a chronological order.
        (1). The setting for this eschatological discourse from the Lord's own lips was the admiration of the disciples for the beauty and magnificence of the temple in Jerusalem. The Lord quickly diverted their attention to other matters by prophesying of the utter destruction of the temple, and even of the city, the inhabitants of which, with the whole nation, would be scattered among all nations until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
        (2). The Lord's prophecy concerning the temple, Jerusalem, and the nation caused the disciples to set their minds upon the time when the prophecy would be fulfilled; and especially, what the sign of the Lord's return would be, and when the end of the age would come. This inquiry of the disciples provided for the following lengthy discourse from the Lord.
        (3). Jesus immediately began to tell them about the rise of many false christs who would lead many astray. He continues to mention a great many things which would take many, many years to fulfill, and then adds that "the end is not yet," but that such things would be merely "the beginning" of the trials and afflictions which the saints must endure. In the light of such things it was utterly impossible for the first and even the second century saints to look upon the Lord's return as imminent.
        (4). The Lord continues in each of these gospels by prophesying of the rise of the Antichrist and the subsequent great tribulation. Not in any one of the gospels did the Lord encourage the saints to look for His return before the placing of the abomination of desolation in the temple. This is in perfect harmony with Paul in II Thess. 2, and John in the Revelation.
        (5). For the benefit of those who would object on the grounds that in this case we would know the exact day of the Lord's return, I must call attention to the fact that some of the days of the reign of the Antichrist will be chopped off. "For the elect's sake, those days will be shortened." How much they will be shortened is not for us to know. Paul says that, though that day will come upon the world as a thief, it will not catch unawares those faithful ones who are awake, for they are of the day and therefore walk in the light (I Thess. 5:1-10).
        (6). The reader will do well to make a close examination of Matt. 24:23-26 and Mark 13:21-23. It is impossible to understand these verses in the light of the contexts, and at the same time say that there is a secret coming of Christ prior to the time (or at the same time) the Antichrist is revealed in the midst of Daniel's seventieth week by his defiling the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus did not say these things right in the middle of discussing the great tribulation without their being directly connected to the particular discussion at hand. The Holy Spirit did not have the writers to insert these verses into this position just to fill up space. It is clear that the great tribulation begins at the time a great number of false christs and false prophets will arise, "and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." Christ, speaking to the same ones whom He told to watch in these chapters, says, "believe it not." Then He gives some reasons why they are not to believe such false teachings. These reasons are that His coming will be as manifest as lightning and will be "Immediately after the tribulation of those days." The first word in Matt. 24:23, and the first two words of Mark 13:21 are very forceful in both the English and the Greek. The Greek word for "then" is "TOTE." It means, "then; at that time;" "at the time when the things under consideration were taking place." (Thayer). Those who teach that there will be a secret appearance of Christ prior to the time (or at the same time) that the great tribulation begins are preparing the way for false christs and false prophets who will run about at that time, saying, "Behold, he is in the desert," "behold, he is in the secret chamber," "Lo, he is here, or there."
        (7). The first mention that Christ makes of His coming (Matt. 24:27-29) in answer to the question of the disciples is very significant. Note FIRST that it is after He discusses the great tribulation. If there were a secret coming before the beginning of the great tribulation, surely Christ would have mentioned such and had it recorded in at least one of these three inspired writings. Note SECONDLY that this first mention of His coming, when His "eagles" will be gathered to Him, is a very public one; one which will be seen as far as the east is from the west. There is not a single passage in the sacred Book that will contradict this bold fact.
        (8). The second mention that Christ makes of His return (Matt. 24:29-31) is in direct relation to the first one, and concerns the sending of the angels to gather the Lord's elect from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. This is a perfect harmony with what Paul says in Thess. 4:13-18. All these passages mention the saints coming from heaven and also from earth in the same Coming. Israel is the elect nation, and it is the greatest folly not to associate the saints who are grafted into that elect nation by faith (Rom. 11) with that nation. These engrafted saints will participate in all the promised blessings upon that nation.
        (9). Let us be most careful to observe that the remainder of these chapters (Matt. 24; Mark 13; and Luke 21) are in very close harmony. All three deal precisely with the same time element. All three discuss the sudden thief - like coming of the Lord. If the reader has any doubt about this, it would be best right here to settle the doubts by closely examining the chapters with this one thought in mind. Matthew has the most to say about the matter, but the time element is definitely the same.
        (10). In Matthew Jesus compares His thief - like coming to the flood in the days of Noah. At this point let us bring Luke 17:26-37 into the harmony also. This passage in Luke 17 was not given at the same time as the ones we have been discussing, yet the subject matter is clearly the same. From these two passages I want to draw further conclusions, that is, I want to make conspicuous the comparisons which Christ Himself made in these passages.
        First, Jesus compares the condition of the world just before His return to the condition of the world just before the flood (and also of Sodom before its destruction). This condition was, and will be, one of exceedingly great wickedness.
        Second, Jesus compares the attitude that the world will have just before He returns to the attitude the world had just before the flood came. This attitude was (and will be) one of utter indifference toward the warnings of God through His people against the wicked condition of the world. The warnings were given again and again, but the people counted them as nothing.
        Third, Jesus said that the wrath of God caught the world as a thief in Noah's day, and that it would be likewise at His return. Noah preached more than a hundred years concerning the wickedness of the people and the coming world - wide judgement from God; nevertheless, the flood came as a thief upon all the world except Noah and his family who were watching, and therefore were ready. Noah believed God in the face of the greatest opposition, and kept his family and himself prepared. He was always watching and praying which provided him with strength to flee out of the presence of the wrath of God which came upon that world. Jesus warns us also to be most careful to be watching and praying (Luke 21:34-36) that we may have strength (prevail) to flee out of the presence of that wrath that is to come. This wrath will come upon the whole world as a snare (not wrath upon the lost in hell, but wrath upon the nations on earth).
        Fourth, the flood came as a thief and caught the world unaware, yet, when it came there was not one eye that did not observe it. This is the application Jesus made to the thief coming, and we will misrepresent the words of our blessed Savior if we seek to make any other application out of it. May such serve as a warning to any who dare continue to make any other application, lest he continue to prepare the way for the false christs and false prophets who will run about saying that Christ has made a secret appearance somewhere immediately following the placing of the abomination in the Jewish temple. The day that the flood came was the day the salvation of Noah and his family took effect (not salvation from hell). "Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed" (Luke 17:28-30). How beautiful is the harmony as we see it in II Thess. 1, that on the same day that Christ comes in glory, in flaming fire to take vengeance upon the world, the troubled saints will be put at rest in their glorified bodies! How beautiful is the harmony in I Thess. 4:13-18 and 5:1-10, where Paul teaches that the day the Lord gathers the saints around himself in the air is the day that wrath from God will be loosed upon the world! They cry peace and safety, but then sudden destruction comes upon them as a thief. This harmony is also the same in Matt. 24:23-31; Rev. 6:9-17; 11:15-19; etc. There are three matters of great importance that are very conspicuous in each of the references. (A). Each passage directly states, or indirectly demands, the resurrection and rapture of the saints. (B). Each passage speaks of the out - pouring of God's wrath at the same time the saints are raptured. (C). The whole procedure is public and world - wide.
        Fifth, in Luke 17:30 Jesus says that this is the time of His revelation. As Christ speaks of His revelation, when one will be taken and another left, the question was asked as to where they should be taken. He answered, "Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together" (Luke 17:37). We must associate this statement with the "lightning" in Luke 17:24 and Matt. 24:27-28. It will also be well to associate this passage (Luke 17:26-37) with the "glory coming" mentioned in Matt. 16:24-27; Mark 8:34-38; and Luke 9:23-26, at which time the Lord will manifest whether a man has saved his life or lost his life (this is not salvation from hell).
        (11). We must acknowledge that it is impossible to disassociate Mark 13:32-37 and Luke 21:34-36 from the rest of this harmony. The manner in which Noah and his family watched before the flood is precisely the manner in which we are to be watching today. The Lord "gave authority to his servants, and to every man a work, and commanded the porter to watch" (Mark 13:34). The manner in which the servants are to be watching is by using the entrusted authority to accomplish the prescribed work -- "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matt. 28:19-20).
        But just what did Jesus mean when He spoke of watching lest coming suddenly He find us sleeping? When we learn what it means to be as salt that has lost its savor (Matt. 5:13), then we will have learned what Jesus meant by watching. When we learn what it means to become a "castaway" (I Cor 9:27), we will then understand what Jesus meant by watching lest a sudden coming find us sleeping. Do we think that we can take a fill of sin and then return to the Lord at our own will? Do we think that we can drink ourselves drunk on the wine - filled pleasures of Satan and then cast that mighty wrestler aside at our will? (Eph 6:12). We had better learn quickly that "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy" (Rom. 9:17). The salt that has lost its savor (Matt. 5:13; Luke 14:25-35) will certainly be asleep when the Lord returns. The Greek wrestler that lost the match had his eyes gouged out (Wuest -- Eph 6:12). There are a lot of God's people who have not yielded themselves to the Spirit of God, therefore have been thrown by the enemy (demon spirits), and have had their spiritual eyes gouged out, that is, they have become salt that has lost its savor (Eph 6:12; Matt. 5:13). "Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation" (I Thess. 5:6-8).