We come now to a point concerning which it behooves believers, particularly young believers and beginners in the study of prophecy, to be quite clear upon. Like the other two great Facts which we have reviewed -- the First Advent of our Lord to this earth and His going away, and the presence now of the Holy Spirit upon this earth -- this third great fact of the Redeemer's Return also has a double bearing, a bearing upon the Church and a bearing upon the world. The Second Coming of Christ will occur in two stages. Just as a man living in New York might take a railroad journey to California, and while enroute break his journey at Chicago, so Christ will break His journey from heaven to earth. He is now in heaven; He will return to the earth. His ultimate destination is the Mount of Olives (Zech.14:4), but He first breaks His journey in the air (1 Thess.4:16). It is highly important to the understanding of unfulfilled prophecy that these two stages in the Return of Christ should be clearly distinguished, failure to do so will inevitably result in the utmost confusion. There are not yet to be two Returnings of Christ, but on Return in two stages.
The two stages in the Return of Christ are clearly distinguished in the New Testament. We now call attention to some of the leading differences between them.1. The first stage will be in grace, the second will be in judgment.2. The first stage will reach no farther than the air, the second will reach to the earth itself.3. The first stage is when the Redeemer returns to catch up the saints unto Himself, the second is when He returns to the earth to rule it with a rod of iron.4. The first stage will be secret, unseen by the world, the second will be public and seen by every eye.5. The first stage is Christ returning as |The Morning Star| (Rev.22:16), the second is His appearing as |The Sun of Righteousness| (Mal.4:2).6. At the first stage he comes for His saints (John 14:3), at the second He returns with His saints (Jude 1:14).7. The first stage, His secret coming for His saints, is not the subject of a single Old Testament prophecy, the second stage, when He returns to the earth, is referred to in numerous Old Testament predictions.8. The first stage of Christ's Return will be followed by God's blessings being poured upon the earth, and by the Holy Spirit being poured out upon all flesh.9. The first stage will be followed by Satan coming down to this earth in great wrath (Rev.12:9), the second will be followed by Satan being removed from the earth for a thousand years (Rev.20:2, 3).10. Between the present hour and the first stage of Christ's Return nothing intervenes, no prophecy needs first to be fulfilled, for our Lord may return at any moment; but before the second stage of Christ's Return can occur many prophecies must first be fulfilled.11. Concerning the first stage of our Lord's Return we |wait for God's Son from heaven| (1 Thess.1:10), whereas the second stage is distinguished as |the coming of the Son of Man.| 12. The first stage was typified by the translation of Enoch to heaven (Heb.11:5), the second was foreshadowed by Elijah who has yet to return to this earth to herald the judgments of the great and terrible day of the Lord (Mal.4:5).13. The first stage is our Lord's Coming as our Saviour (Heb.9:28), the second is His return to earth as King(Rev.19:11, 16).14. The first stage will be followed by the saints coming before the |judgment-seat| (Bema) of Christ to be judged according to their works and rewarded for their service ((2 Cor.5:10), the second will be followed by the |Throne of glory| upon which shall set the Son of Man who will judge the nations that are upon earth at the beginning of His millennial reign and apportion them their positions in His Kingdom (Matt.25:31-46). Here then is the double bearing of the Fact of the Redeemer's Return -- it respects first His own people and then the whole world.
These two stages in the Redeemer's Return are in strict accord with the order of events which transpired at His First Advent. At the first coming of the Lord Jesus there was a secret or private manifestation of Himself, and subsequently a public revelation. The newly-born Saviour was actually seen by very few. The shepherds in the field, the wise men from the East, Anna and Simeon in the temple saw the Redeemer in the days of His infancy, but Herod and Pilate, the scribes and the Pharisees -- the unbelieving civic and religious heads -- saw Him not! After His return from Egypt on the death of Herod, He retired to Nazareth and it was not until an interval of nearly thirty years had passed that He was publicly manifested. Thus will it be at His second coming. First there will be the secret manifestation (in the air) unto His own people, and then after an interval of seven years or more He will be publicly revealed to the world.