The Coming of the Lord as an Extended Unified Complex of Events: A Proposed Response to the Two ‘Second Comings’ Objection to Pretribulationism


The debate regarding the timing of the rapture of the church has historically been based on the interpretation of certain “proof texts” and logical arguments. While there is certainly a need for those discussion to be had, they ultimately cannot provide more than a implied view. Any final determination, as much as that is possible, must come from the foundation of a biblical doctrine found throughout scripture. It is with this presupposition in mind that this dissertation was written. The Coming of the Lord theme is one of several themes that pervades scripture from Genesis to Revelation. This study examines the coming of the Lord theme and demonstrates that the rapture, as a rescue of the godly prior to judgment, is a fundamental element of that theme.




Chapter one discusses the specifics of the two second-comings (or two-comings) objection to pretribulationism and an analysis of current responses to it. The two-comings objection essentially criticizes the pretribulation rapture because it divides the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ into two second comings; the rapture and the posttribulational glorious return. Upon further analysis, the two-comings objection can be divided into six elements: historical, lexical, exegetical, hermeneutical, theological, and practical elements.

In chapter one the three current pretribulational models of the coming of the Lord, which have been formulated to answer the two-comings objection, are also identified. Pretribulationists presenting the first model differentiate the rapture and the posttribulational return as two separate and distinct physical “comings” of the Lord. The second model is a slightly nuanced version of the first. Pretribulationists presenting the second model state that the rapture and the posttribulational return are distinct stages or phases of the one second coming. The third model is different entirely from the first two. Pretribulationists presenting the third model argue that the coming of the Lord, or the parousía, refers to an extended period of time that begins before the Tribulation and incorporates a complex of events. At a minimum, this complex of events includes the rapture, the Tribulation (or Daniel’s seventieth week), the wrath of God, the day of the Lord, and the glorious visible return. It is one coming because the Lord is present, though invisible, throughout the Tribulation. Only at the end of the Tribulation will the Lord’s previously invisible presence become visible as He descends bodily all the way to the earth and thereby fulfills Acts 1:11.

The last section of chapter one identifies Model 3 as the closest of the current models to the proposed model of the current thesis. A more detailed analysis of its current arguments is provided, which identifies where it still falls short in fully answering the two-comings objection. This analysis will be used as a guide for study in the remainder of the dissertation. The remaining chapters will work to fully address these deficiencies and expand Model 3 in an attempt to answer each element of the two-comings objection.

Because the proposed model is a paradigm shift from those in the current debate, it is believed that merely defending proof texts will be insufficient for reasonably responding to the two-comings objection. For this reason chapters two and three lay a lexical and exegetical foundation for suggesting a complex unifying concept of scripture that will be fully developed and explained in chapter four. This complex unifying concept will act as an interpretive framework by which to understand the proposed model of the coming of the Lord. It is suggested that the coming of the Lord is one theme within a complex motif that also includes the themes of the revelation of the Lord, the sovereignty of the Lord, and the day of the Lord. Briefly stated, this concept interrelates these themes as follows: The coming of the Lord is His immanent action on the day of the Lord that results in the revelation of His sovereignty.

Chapter two provides a study of the coming of the Lord (Yahweh) theme in the Old Testament (OT) and Second Temple Judaism (ST) and its relation to the other three biblical themes of the complex unifying concept. Each chapter section provides a lexical and exegetical examination of these biblical themes to show how they reasonably interrelate as well as provide support for the proposed model. The last section of chapter two provides a high level overview of ST literature. Specifically, it gives evidence that these four biblical themes remained essentially the same in ST as that presented based on OT data.

Chapter three provides a similar examination from New Testament (NT) data as that conducted in chapter two but with each theme examined with respect to the Lord Jesus Christ. The same four biblical themes of the coming, revelation, sovereignty, and day of the Lord are examined and presented to be fulfilled by the Lord Jesus Christ. Chapter three concludes with a discussion of the most significant potential objections to the proposed model, which consist of texts that seemingly indicate that certain identifiable events or signs must occur before the coming of the Lord.

Chapter four provides the theological support for the proposed model. The first part suggests a complex unifying concept of scripture based on current biblical scholarship as well as the evidence presented in chapters two and three. It is suggested that this complex unifying concept provides theological support for the proposed model by showing that it is theologically coherent. Next, a concise summary of the proposed model is presented based on its development from chapters two, three, and chapter four part one. Finally, a response is provided for each of the elements of the two-comings objection based on the proposed model, with one exception. Due to space constraints, the historical element of the two-comings objection is not responded to in this dissertation. All responses are examined for their ability to reasonably answer each element. The dissertation concludes that the proposed model, with the exception of the historical element, reasonably responds to the two-comings objection.