The Second Coming of Christ Picture

Alexander Reese


The Approaching Advent of Christ


Today premillennialism exists in two forms: dispensational premillennialism and historic premillennialism. The name "historic premillennialism" tends to imply that the dispensational formulation of premillennialism is of recent origin, in fact dating back only to the time of John N. Darby in the nineteenth century. Dispensationalists are particularly sensitive to the charge that their view originated with Darby, for then it would be difficult to argue that it originated with the teaching of the Apostles and early Church. Nevertheless, the terminology "historic premillennialism" is used by almost everyone.

The literal meaning of the term premillennialism is that the Messiah (or Christ) will return "before the millennium." The millennium, or the thousand years of Revelation 20, is a literal period of time. The millennium is immediately preceded by a period of tribulation for seven years with much of the world under the power of a personal Antichrist. At the end of the tribulation, Christ returns. He defeats the Antichrist, raises the righteous dead, and reigns on the earth for 1000 years. When the thousand years are completed, he will raise the wicked dead, judge them, and usher in the eternal state of the new heaven and the new earth. dispensational premillennialism and historic premillennialism are agreed on these points.

Now to introduce the subject of Alexander Reese's book, The Approaching Advent of Christ, the essential difference between dispensational premillennialism and historic premillennialism must be stated. Dispensationalism believes that Christ at the beginning of the tribulation, considered to be imminent, will come down from heaven to "the air," raise the dead in Christ, and then return to heaven with both those raised from the dead and all those believers who are living. This is called the pretribulational rapture. Historic premillennialism believes that the return of Christ at the end of the tribulation is the only return He makes. There is no return of Christ at the beginning of the tribulation, only at the end, as described in the previous paragraph.

We present this book, The Approaching Advent of Christ, by Alexander Reese as the best book available on this subject. Even John F. Walvoord, late president of Dallas Theological Seminary, editor of Bibliotheca Sacra, and a strong pretribulationalist, has written that "Alexander Reese, in his 'The Approaching Advent of Christ,' presents the most comprehensive classic defense of posttribulationism."* Reese's entire book deals with the error of the pretribulational rapture. It is totally demolished.

*John F. Walvoord, "Posttribulationism Today: Part I: The Rise of Posttribulational Interpretation," Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 132, num. 525 (January 1975).

The Book: The Approaching Advent of Christ




By William R. Crews, President, Grace Bible College and Seminary, Albany, Georgia


By the author himself, Alexander Reese, who states: "When, therefore, someone has a freak interpretation to commend to us, I have drawn on the great exegetes to give us their view of it, trusting that the average educated reader will see that a natural interpretation, backed by scholars of the highest standing, is preferable to a freak one backed by dogmatism and the requirements of a system."

Chapter 1

The Question Stated

Reese gives a 7-point summary of the Premillennial doctrine of the Lord's Coming as embraced by the church up until the second quarter of the nineteenth century. He then proceeds to "give a summary of the new doctrines with extracts from the writings of the four pioneer writers who filled Evangelical Christendom with their teaching."

Chapter 2

The Resurrection of the Saints in the Old Testament

Reese writes: "Now concerning the Rapture, there are only three undisputed texts in the Bible that deal with it, namely, 1 Thessalonians 4:17, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, and John 14:3. But there are many passages in both the Old and New Testaments that speak of the resurrection of the holy dead, which, Darbyists assure us, takes place in immediate connection with the Rapture. For the present, therefore, we may dismiss the Rapture from our minds and confine our attention to the first resurrection; for wheresoever the resurrection is, there will the Rapture be also." The Scriptures discussed are Isaiah 26:19, Isaiah 25:7-8, Daniel 12:1-3, and Daniel 12:13

Chapter 3

The Resurrection of the Saints in the Gospels

According to Reese, "It is a reasonable presupposition that, given a clear revelation in the O.T. of the resurrection of Israel's dead, nothing in the New will contradict it. . . . Does the N.T. contain any such teaching? In other words, does it indicate that the resurrection of the saints is to occur several years or decades before the Day of the Lord, as Darbyists insist?" The Scriptures discussed are John 6:39-54 and 11:24, Luke 20:34-36, Matthew 13:43, and Luke 14:14-15.

Chapter 4

The Resurrection of the Saints in St. Paul's Epistles

Four passages are discussed: Romans 11:15, 1 Corinthians 15:50-54, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:21-26. His discussion of 1 Corinthians 15:54 ("So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory'") is particularly illuminating. He writes: "The reader may ask what explanation pre-tribs give of this fundamental difficulty in 1 Corinthians 15:54 and how they attempt to reconcile their theories with this Scripture. As a rule, they have nothing to say about it. . . .When, however, the advocates of the new theories were arguing, not with fellow premillennialists but with postmillennialists like David Brown and Agar Beet, they forgot themselves and used arguments that were a complete negation of the position they maintained against all orthodox premillennialists since earliest times."

Chapter 5

The Resurrection of the Saints in the Apocalypse

Reese begins this chapter with lengthy discussions on two main texts in Revelation of primary importance, namely, 11:15-18 and 20:4-6. Then he writes: "Before leaving the Book of Revelation and its doctrine of the saints' resurrection, it is necessary to examine an argument that is confidently put forward by pre-tribs to prove their theory of a resurrection of the holy dead some years before the coming of Antichrist. It is drawn from the vision of heaven recorded in chapters 4-5 of the Apocalypse." This section on the "Twenty-four Elders" is quite interesting.

Chapter 6

The Parable of the Tares and the Wheat

This parable is fraught with problems for those who tread the pre-trib trail. In view of the plainness of its teaching, Reese states: "It is impossible on candid principles to maintain the theory of a rapture some years prior to the End of the Age. Nevertheless, pre-tribs are hardy enough to attempt the task." The reader will find this chapter fascinating. Reese quotes from the many advocates, giving a synopsis of the evolution of the theory of the pre-trib rapture and the disagreements that exist among its adherents.

Chapter 7

The Great Missionary Commission and its Fulfillment

In this chapter Reese tackles the subject of the "Jewish Remnant," the ever-ready answer of the pre-tribs for every thorny problem.

Chapter 8

The Church and the End in the Epistles

In this chapter Reese shows that not fewer than five texts in the Epistles associate "the End" (Greek word telos) with the Christian hope: 1 Corinthians 1:7-8; Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 6:11; and Revelation 2:26. He writes: "The underlying presupposition in all this is that in the Gospels, as in the Epistles, Christians continue on earth till the very End of the Age; and this is totally opposed to pre-trib theories."

Chapter 9

The Church and the Glorious Appearing

Four principal words are used in the Epistles in reference to the End of the Age and the Return of Christ. The first of these is Manifestation or Appearing, a translation of the Greek word epiphaneia. Reese writes: "If we are to be removed from the earth before the Epiphany of Christ, it is evident that the Scripture can no where either state or imply that we are to remain on the earth until the Epiphany. If we can point out one passage that speaks of believers being on the earth until the Epiphany, the whole argument is disproved and the system connected with it falls." Reese discusses five verses where epiphaneia is used: 2 Thessalonians 2:8; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:8; and Titus 2:13.

Chapter 10

The Unveiling of the Son

Reese moves on to the second word, apokalupsis, translated Revelation, or unveiling, and wrties: "If pre-trib theories of the End-time are true, it follows that this word, when used in the Epistles, must never be found associated with the existence of the Church on earth. If it is so used even once, then the theories are wrong." He then proceeds to discuss six places where apokalupsis is used. They are 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Romans 8:18-19; 1 Peter 1:7; 1 Peter 1:13; and 1 Peter 4:13.

Chapter 11

The Parousia of the King

The third word is parousia, usually translated by coming and arrival. The first use of it is in Matthew 24:3, which reads: "What will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?" Reese writes: "Here and everywhere else in the Gospels it refers to the triumphant Advent of our Lord at the close of the present world-period. Pre-tribs admit this, but contend that the Lord was addressing the Apostles as representatives of a Jewish Remnant of the End-time, and that it is to the Epistles of Paul that we must go to get light on the Church's hope." Reese then proceeds to discuss seven verses. They are: 1 Corinthians 15:23, 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 3:13, 4:15, 5:23, and 2 Thessalonians 2:1 and 2:8.

Chapter 12

Messiah's Day

Reese now addresses the last of the four words, the Day (or "in that Day," "Jesus Messiah's Day," "Messiah's Day," "the Day of the Lord Jesus," "the Day of the Lord Jesus Messiah," and "the Day of the Lord"). He writes: "If the secret pre-tribulation Rapture is true, we must never find Christians in the New Testament looking for the Day of the Lord as if it were the time for the fulfillment of their hope or for closing their career on earth." The scriptures discussed are many. This is a most illuminating chapter.

Chapter 13

Sir Robert Anderson's Theory of a Series of Comings

According to Reese, Sir Robert Anderson was quick to see "how erroneous and absurd was the exegesis that relegated the Appearing and Revelation to an event at least seven years after the fulfillment of the Church's hope. He saw what every unbiased student has seen, that the hope of the Church is nothing else than the Glorious Appearing of Christ. Unfortunately, instead of rejecting the pleasing schemes of the Second Advent that originated in denying or ignoring this fact, and could survive only by the free use of imagination and 'grasshopper' exegesis, Sir R. Anderson set to work to find a new apologetic for the main scheme of the prophetic future introduced by Darby."

Chapter 14

The Saints' Everlasting Rest

This chapter concerns the saint's rest from tribulation. First, "Now, if the Church is to be removed from the scene before the time of Antichrist, if she is to enter on her rest several years or decades before the Day of the Lord, then we must nowhere find passages of Scripture that locate her obtaining relief at the Day itself; we should expect to find texts putting the blessing in terms that leave no doubt." He then focuses on the pre-tribs favorite text, Revelation 3:10, and shows that it fails the test. Second, "If such exemption of the Church from the Great Tribulation is a scriptural truth, then we must nowhere find terms used of the sufferers in the Great Tribulation that are commonly used of the Church." This subject takes up the rest of the chapter.

Chapter 15

Some Objections Considered

Reese lays to rest 13 objections brought by pre-trib advocates.

Chapter 16


Reese gives us the background for his engaging to write this book. Also of interest is a comparison of the complexity and intricacies of the pre-trib theory with the simplicity of his.

Bibliographic data: Alexander Reese, The Approaching Advent of Christ (Grand Rapids: International Publications, 1975; original publication, London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1937). Note: The text has not been modified except for punctuation, spelling, some formatting, and conversion of Roman numerals. Occasionally, a word in square brackets is inserted to make the intent of a sentence clearer.

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