by Shawn Brasseaux
We know that Jesus Christ came to planet earth 2,000 years ago to die on Calvary’s cross (His First Coming). Also, we know that He will return to planet earth in the future to set up His earthly kingdom (His Second Coming). As we will see, these comings were clearly predicted in the Old Testament, but they were not delineated to be two comings until the New Testament was written.
Moreover, when we study the Bible dispensationally (“rightly dividing the word of truth;” 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV), we learn that there are two secret comings of Christ during the period between the two prophesied comings of Christ. In this Bible study, we want to explain these four comings of Christ, and how it is important that we understand their place in God’s timeline for the ages.
THE TWO PROPHESIED COMINGS OF CHRIST
First, notice what the Apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:10,11 KJV: “Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.”
The Old Testament prophets foretold of Israel’s coming Messiah. They spoke of Him as suffering and dying (“the sufferings of Christ”), but they also predicted He would fight battles and reign as King (“the glory that should follow”). How could this be? How could one man die and then reign as King? It made no sense to them. Could there be two Messiahs, perhaps? Let us examine some of the Old Testament verses that describe Israel’s coming Messiah.
Isaiah chapter 53, written about 700 B.C., reads: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:… he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed… the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment… he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin… He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities… he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Written about 1000 B.C., Psalm 22:1-21 also describes a suffering and dying Messiah: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?… But I am a worm, and no man: a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn… Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round… I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws: and thou hast brought me into the dust of death… they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.”
Contrariwise, Jeremiah 23:5,6 KJV speak of Israel’s Messiah as a King reigning over them: “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
Isaiah 9:6,7 KJV also describe the reign of Israel’s Messiah-King: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”
Zechariah 14:1-4,9 prophesied a Messiah who would win battles for Israel and ultimately be her King:
“1 Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.
2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south….
9 And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.”
It is not until we come to the New Testament that we learn that the coming of Christ prophesied in the Old Testament was actually two comings. In fact, after the earthly ministry of Christ and His crucifixion (His First Coming), the Apostle Peter tells Israel that Jesus Christ will be returning to earth to reign as King. Acts 3:18-20 KJV explains the Second Coming of Christ:
“18 But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.
19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:”
But, when we come to the ministry of the Apostle Paul, there is further revelation about the coming of Christ. In addition to two prophesied comings of Christ (His earthly ministry and death on Calvary, and His millennial reign as King), there are two secret comings of Christ in Scripture. You only read about these two secret comings of Christ when you come to the ministry of the Apostle Paul and his 13 epistles, Romans through Philemon.
THE TWO SECRET COMINGS OF CHRIST
The Bible explains that, until the ascended Lord Jesus Christ revealed it to Paul, our Dispensation of Grace was kept secret (from the Old Testament prophets). The Old Testament prophets did not know of a time period—our Dispensation of Grace—when God would temporarily set aside Israel and salvation would go to the Gentiles apart from Israel’s kingdom (prophetic) program. The Old Testament prophets did not know that Jesus would actually come twice, not once. Furthermore, God kept it secret that Jesus Christ would return two more times in between those two separate comings.
Read Romans 16:25,26 KJV: “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:”
Also notice Ephesians 3:1-6,9 KJV:
“1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:…
9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:”
Colossians 1:25-27 KJV concurs:
“25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;
26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:
27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:”
Again, until the ascended Lord Jesus Christ revealed it to the Apostle Paul, God never told anyone of a secret time period between those two prophesied comings of Christ. That secret time period, our Dispensation of Grace, would open and close with two secret comings of Christ. Just like the Dispensation of Grace was not revealed in the Old Testament, the two comings of Christ associated with the Dispensation of Grace were not revealed in the Old Testament either.
God opened our Dispensation of Grace in Acts chapter 9, when the ascended Lord Jesus Christ appeared to Saul (later the Apostle Paul) on the road to Damascus. Paul explains this in Acts 26:13-19 KJV:
“13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:”
Just prior to our Dispensation of Grace opening, Saul (Paul) had persecuted the Jews who had trusted in Jesus as their Messiah-King. Israel had already killed Jesus Christ, and the events of Acts chapter 2 had already occurred. The next event on Israel’s calendar was God’s wrath (see Joel 2:28-32 and Acts 2:16-21; cf. Psalm 2:1-5). When we come to the prophet Stephen in Acts chapter 7, Israel is still rebellious. Ultimately, the Jews stoned Stephen to death (Acts 7:58–8:1).
Instead of pouring out His wrath, which should have occurred (Acts 7:55,56 cf. Psalm 110:1), God poured out His grace on Saul and saved him! This coming of Christ to open our dispensation, save Saul, and make him Paul the Apostle, was unknown to the Old Testament prophets. Notice how Paul writes that he received his apostleship/ministry by “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12). Our Lord Jesus Christ, from His ascended position, personally revealed Himself to Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-7; Acts 22:6-11; Acts 26:13-19).
There was a secret coming of Christ to open our dispensation and temporarily suspend Israel’s program. Likewise, there is a secret coming of Christ to conclude our dispensation and take us (the Church the Body of Christ) to heaven. The rapture, a “mystery” (secret) unknown to the Old Testament, is only revealed in Paul’s epistles. “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,” (1 Corinthians 15:51). Before Jesus Christ can return to earth (His Second Coming in Israel’s program), He must first return “in the clouds” to gather the Church the Body of Christ, the believers in this the Dispensation of Grace (see 1 Corinthians 15:51-55; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). This dispensation must close via the rapture before God can return to Israel.
Once our Dispensation of Grace closes, God’s program with Israel will resume. The seven-year Tribulation (God’s wrath) will follow the rapture, and the seven years will end with the Second Coming of Christ to regather Israel and establish His kingdom in the earth. You only see these marvelous truths when you study the Bible dispensationally.
In hindsight, on this side of Calvary, we understand that there is one Jesus Christ (one Messiah, not two), but His coming described in the Old Testament is actually two comings (when we look at the New Testament). The Lord Jesus Christ came to Israel 2,000 years ago to suffer, die, and resurrect (His First Coming), but He will one day return to Israel as King and Victor (His Second Coming). These two comings of Christ where He literally stands on planet earth are part of the prophetic program (see Acts 3:21).
In addition to those two comings of Christ clearly proclaimed by the Old Testament and explained in the New Testament, we gain further understanding, from Paul’s epistles (alone), that there are two secret comings of Christ between the two prophesied comings of Christ. These two secret comings—Christ appearing to Paul to open the Dispensation of Grace and Christ appearing to the Body of Christ to rapture us out—are kept secret in the Old Testament and Four Gospels. These two comings of Christ where He remains in the air—not to stand on the earth—are part of the mystery program (see Romans 16:25,26).