3. Coming “For” and Coming
“With” the Saints
According to the dispensational interpretation, Christ will come in a secret rapture “FOR his saints”, take them to heaven for seven years, and then come “WITH the saints.” The argument is, of course, that since he will come with his saints, he will have to come at an earlier time for the saints. But let us take a closer look at this argument. First of all, does the Bible anywhere use the expression “coming FOR the saints”?
Repeatedly we have heard statements like this: “Jesus is coming back FOR a church without spot and wrinkle”, or “Soon Jesus will return FOR his church to take it out of this world”, or “The Lord comes in the rapture FOR his church; after the Tribulation period, he comes with his church”, etc. But the fact is: the Bible never uses the expression, “coming FOR the saints.” Never. Surely then, an interpretation that continually uses an expression that the Bible never uses should be subjected to close examination.
Once a person has the concept in mind that there will be a special coming of Christ “for” the church, he then reads about believers being “caught up” and immediately concludes that they will be caught up to heaven. This is not what the passage says at all!
The rapture passage, 1 Thess. 4:16, 17, says that believers will be “caught up . . . in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.” This verse explains WHERE believers will meet the Lord. The place of meeting will be just above the earth — in the clouds, in the air. There is nothing in this verse to indicate that Christ will then turn around and take the church to heaven.
Notice that believers will rise to “MEET” the Lord. The word that is here translated “meet” is a word that was used in reference to the coming of a king or governor to visit a city. As he approached, the citizens would go out to meet him and then escort him on the last part of his journey into the city. We believe it has precisely that same meaning here. As the Lord descends from heaven, believers will rise “to meet the Lord in the air”, in order to come with him as he continues to earth.1
The word “meet” in this verse is apantesis. It is used in two other passages which we will now consider to see exactly how this word was used in the scriptures:
First: Matthew 25:1,6: “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to MEET the bridegroom . . . And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to MEET him.” In this parable, the five wise and the five foolish virgins were to take their lamps and go out to meet the bridegroom. What for? To have him turn around and take them to where he had come from? No! If this had been the case, he would have been coming to meet them, instead of them going out to meet him.
The plain and simp1e truth is that when the bridegroom approached, they went out to meet him so as to escort him back to where they had been waiting — to the place where the marriage would be held. They went out to “meet” him and after meeting him returned “with him.” Notice how the word “meet” was used.
Second: Acts 28:14-16: “And so we went toward Rome. And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to MEET us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns. . . And when we came to Rome . . .” Here the same point is seen. As Paul journeyed to Rome, certain brethren came to meet him and then accompanied him as he entered the city. It does not say that Paul got almost to Rome and then took these brethren back to where he had been. Again, if this had been the case, he would have been coming to meet them, instead of them going out to meet him!
Let us suppose these men that met Paul had explained to the others where they were going. They might have said: “We have heard that the apostle Paul is coming to our city. We are going to meet him and will come with him.” Would any have understood this to mean that they would “meet” Paul; go back to where he had been, spend some time there, so as to finally come “with” him to Rome? No, none would ever get such a meaning from a statement as this. Yet this is exactly the kind of “proof” that is offered for the idea of two second comings of Christ. We are told that since the saints will come “with” Christ, that in going out to “meet” him they must be taken back to where he was, wait there for a period of time, so as to come “with” him!
In the scriptural examples, people went out to “meet” someone and then escorted that person to the place where he was Coming. In no case are two stages, or two comings, implied by this word. There is no room for a period of seven years between the going out to “meet” the one that is coming and the coming “with” that person.
Seeing, then, how the word “meet” is used in the scriptures, we understand that when Christ comes, believers will be “caught up . . . to meet the Lord in the air” and from there they will descend “with him.” So the fact that the Lord will come with his saints (after they rise to “meet” him) does not in any way require two separate second comings of Christ. “That theory must be deliberately read into the passage”, writes Oswald Smith, “We might go through all the writers of the New Testament, and we would fail to discover any indication of the so-called ‘two-stages’ of our Lord’s coming.”2
We turn now to Jude 14, the key verse which speaks of the Lord as coming WITH his saints. There are good reasons for believing that those who are here mentioned as coming with the Lord are ANGELS, not men! If this is true, then the argument that there must be a separate coming for the saints (since Christ will come with the saints) is left without any foundation whatsoever. Let us then take a closer look at this verse.
“Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints” (Jude 14). The word that is translated saints is “hagios” which means simply “holy”, or in this case, “holy [ones].” (The word “holy” that appears many times in the New Testament, with only a few exceptions, is always translated from this word.) There is absolutely nothing in this word itself to indicate who these holy ones are. The term could refer to either men or angels, depending on the context. In this case, we believe the reference is to angels. The Pulpit Commentary says: “The ‘ten thousands of his saints’ is better rendered ‘ten thousands of his holy ones’ . . . For the ‘holy ones’ here intended are the angels.”3
Jesus himself taught that he would come with the holy angels. The word “holy” that he used in connection with the angels is “hagios”, the same word that is used in Jude 14. “The Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy [hagios] angels with him . . .” (Mt. 25:31). Jesus also said: “Whosoever shall be ashamed of me . . . of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh . . . with the holy [hagios] angels” (Mk. 8:38; Lk. 9:26). According to these words of Jesus, the “holy ones” (hagios) that will come with him are the angels.
The expression “ten thousands of saints” (used in Jude 14) also appears in Deuteronomy 33:2 in a passage which is generally regarded as referring to angels: “The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints.” Concerning this passage, the Pulpit Commentary points out that a better translation would be “ten thousands of holy ones”, for the reference is to “myriads of angels” and that the Lord came forth from among them to manifest himself to the people.4
The Matthew Henry Commentary says: “His appearance was glorious: he shone forth like the sun when he goes forth in his Strength. Even Seir and Paran, two mountains at some distance, were illuminated by the divine glory which appeared on Mount Sinai . . . He came with his holy myriads . . . the angels . . . Hence the law is said to be given by the disposition of angels, Acts 7:53; Heb. 2:2.”5
If the expression “ten thousands of saints” referred to angelic beings in Deuteronomy, it is surely not inconsistent to believe that the same expression could refer to angelic beings in Jude 14.
Looking again at the passage in Jude, would the context suggest that the “holy ones” that accompany the Lord at his Second Coming could be angels? We believe this is implied, for these “holy ones” are associated with Christ in executing judgment upon the ungodly. “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his hagios [holy ones], to execute judgment upon . . . all that are ungodly” (Jude 14, 15). We believe this will be the job of angelic beings that will come with Christ, not that of the Christians. Other scriptures make this plain.
Jesus, for example, likened the ungodly to “tares” that are gathered and burned in the fire. So, likewise, in the end of the age, “the Son of man shall send forth his ANGELS” who will cast the ungodly into the fire (Mt. 13:40-42). This is also pointed out in verses 49, 50 of this same chapter: “At the end of the world . . . the ANGELS shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire.” And Paul says: “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty ANGELS, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God” (2 Thess. 1:7).
To sum it up then, Jude 14 speaks of the Lord’s coming with his holy ones. That the reference is to angels in this instance (and not men) is indicated by the words of Jesus when he used the same term in connection with the angels that will accompany him at his coming. The expression “ten thousands of saints” when used in Deuteronomy had reference to angels. And the context in Jude shows that these beings are associated with the Lord in executing flaming judgment upon the ungodly. These things all Imply that the reference is to angels that will come with Christ when he returns. However, as we mentioned earlier, our general argument — that there is one Second Coming of Christ (not two) — is not dependent upon this point.
One final New Testament reference remains to be considered in which we read of Christ’s coming with the saints. Paul exhorted the Thessalonians: “Increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men . . . [so that the Lord] may stablish your heart unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints” (1 Thess. 3:12, 13).
We need only to notice this passage briefly, for it is doubtful if any would attempt to use this verse as a proof text for the idea of a coming for the saints as contrasted to a coming with the saints at a later date. There are several reasons for this. The word translated “coming” in this verse is parousia — a word which dispensationalists commonly say refers to a “secret” rapture — a coming for the saints — whereas in this verse, we read of his “coming [parousia] with all the saints.” Instead of teaching two second comings of Christ, if anything, this verse would indicate that the parousia is the coming of Christ with his saints.
Paul is obviously not speaking of a coming of Christ “WITH all the saints” as contrasted to an earlier coming FOR the saints, for if there was to be an earlier coming, why would he put stress on their being established in holiness at the coming of Christ with all his saints? Surely he would have mentioned the earlier coming if such existed.
In all probability, the meaning intended in this passage is simply that Paul desired the Thessalonians to be established in the faith and be found unblameable at the Second Coming — along with all the other saints — those at Corinth, Colossea, Ephesus, and all believers everywhere.
In any event, there is no basis in this passage (or in the others we have noticed) for the idea of two second comings of Christ; if anything, just the opposite is implied all the way through.
Copyrighted material used by permission of the Ralph Woodrow Evangelistic Association.
PO Box 21, Palm Springs, CA 92263