Pretribulationism has an assortment of beliefs that are contradictory concerning Christ's return, but none, when examined, is so evident as their placement in the end-time scenario of the Parousia (coming) and Apokalupsis (revelation) of Christ. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason to the Pretribulationists' beliefs concerning these two aspects of His return.
Parousia denotes "an arrival and subsequent presence with" (Vine). Pretribulationism states that the parousia is the "second coming of Christ for the Church," at which time Christians are glorified and removed to heaven during the seven-year Tribulation. However, there is no mention of a secret coming in the following verses or in any other verses of Scripture; it must always be assumed. Some pretribulationists say that parousia and apokalypsis may be used indiscriminately to refer to either Christ's "second coming" or His "revelation." But what Scriptural foundation is there to determine whether a particular verse refers to the first or second part of His second advent? There is none. When the parousia and the apokalypsis are aimed at the single posttribulational event, the confusion over the use of the two words disappears.
The following verses are those describing Christ's parousia in an irrefutable posttribulational setting. They complement those verses that use apokalypsis. All of these Scriptures simply give differant, non-contradictory views of the single return of Christ to the earth to take up His millennial reign. In posttribulationism, parousia says, "He will come, He will arrive, He will be present." Apokalypsis says "His coming, His arrival, His presence will be visible to the naked eye of believer and unbeliever alike."
The pretribulational coming of Christ to raise the dead saints and to rapture the living church has become the most characteristic doctrine of Pretribulationism. We must examine the language used in the New Testament to see if it supports this idea of a coming of Christ before the Great Tribulation.
.... "Parousia,"... is the word most frequently used of the Lord's return [in pretribulationism], and it is used in connection with the Rapture of the church (George Eldon Ladd, The Last Things, 1978, p. 50).
There is no basis for pretribulationsts assuming a secret Parousia before the Tribulation. The point here is that pretribulationism uses the Parousia indiscriminately to support their doctrine with absolutely no biblical basis for doing so, since a pretribulational Parousia (or coming) is not mentioned or hinted at in Scripture. It is always an assumption. Irregardless, Pretribulationism uses "Parousia"' to describe the pretribulational rapture of the Church. The question is, Can it maintain such a stance without encountering legistical problems? If even one verse shows the Parousia to be after the Tribulation reagrding the Church, then their theory is very quesionable.
With the exception of the use of "Parousia" in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 24), let's look at the Parousia Scriptures according the standard pretribulational definition as occuring before the Tribulation. Matthew 24 is an "exception" to their beliefs because pretribulationists assign this "Parousia" to the Jews at the end of the Tribulation:
We start by listing the verses from Matthew 24 with it's posttribulational, visible depiction of Christ's coming back called His parousia:
Matthew 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy COMING (PAROUSIA), and of the end of the world?
Matthew 24:27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the COMING (PAROUSIA) of the Son of man be.
Matthew 24:36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. 37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the COMING (PAROUSIA) of the Son of man be. 38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the COMING (PAROUSIA) of the Son of man be.
Jesus says that His coming (parousia, v. 3,37,39) follows "immediately after the tribulation of those days" and it would be accompanied by cataclysmic signs in the universe: "the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars! will fall from heaven, and the powen of the heavens will be shaken" (Matt. 24:29). These verses definitely don't refer to a "secret parousia." We know the Revelation (apokalypsis) of Christ occurs at the end of the Tribulation; here the Lord Himself says His parousia is in the same posttribulational setting. Pretribulationism creates problems for itself using the word "Parousia" for the "secret" coming of Christ in reference to the Church. Because they use the word "parousia" to describe the gathering of the Jews in Matthew 24 to bring them into the millennial reign, then they have a problem becuase Jesus comes, gathers the remnant Jews, and is with them as He leads them into that reign on earth. This occurs as His wrath is poured out in a visible way and His coming is visible to the whole world. But concerning the rapture of the Church, they say this means the secret coming when Christ raptures the Church to heaven. They contradict the scriptures in this case making the scriptures ambiguous.
Our goal will now be to see if the pretribulational interpretation of all the verses using "Parousia" hold to the time period they have assigned it, namely, before the Tribulation.
We now list eight of the twelve remaining verses using "Parousia" that could be taken as a secret pretribulational event IF it had been mentioned in any one of them, but it isn't. It isn't mentioned anywhere in the Bible. But there is nothing in these verses that would prevent placing them in the posttribulational "Jewish Parousia" described by Jesus in Matthew 24:
1 Corinthians 15:23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his COMING (PAROUSIA).24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
Our resurrection is part of the Church's hoped-for salvation that Peter said would be completed at the revelation (apokalupsis = revelation) of Christ (1 Pt. 1:5,13). This verse is, therefore, posttribulational. In the above verses, the order given is first the PAROUSIA followed by the end (vv. 23-24). It does not say first the PAROUSIA followed by the tribulation. The description associated with the end is given in verse 24 and it does not describe the tribulation but the time when jesus will hand all things over to the Father.
1 Thessalonians 2:19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his COMING (PAROUSIA)?
1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope . . . 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be REVEALED (APOKALUPTO) in the last time. . . 13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the REVELATION (APOKALUPSIS) of Jesus Christ;
There's no hint then of a pretribulational secret coming of Christ. The Lord can come for the Church only once, which ties this verse to posttribulational 1 John 2:28. The hope here refers to the Church's hope of salvation to be received when Christ is revealed (1 Pt. 1:5,13) and this hope is stated in the context of BOTH the PAROUSIA and the APOKALYPSIS of Christ. Becuase the ONE hope is completmentary to both, they are the same posttribulational event.
1 Thessalonians 3:13 To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the COMING (PAROUSIA) of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
The holy ones returning with Christ do not need their hearts strengthened, for they are with Him. It is the Church on earth which is encouraged to "strengthen [their) hearts" in the face of trials so they will be blameless when He comes. This verse also refers to our hope being fulfilled when Jesus is revealed (see 1 Pt. 1:13, apokalupsis). "All his holy ones" are described as "the armies of heaven....following him" in Revelation 19:14.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the COMING (PAROUSIA) of our Lord Jesus Christ.
A blameless Church is gathered to Christ when He comes (Eph. 5:27), which is part of the posttribulational hope of salvation (1 Pt. l:5, 13).
James 5:7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the COMING (PAROUSIA) of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the COMING (PAROUSIA) of the Lord draweth nigh.
2 Peter 1: 16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and COMING (PAROUSIA) of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
The mention of "power and coming, and majesty" parallels Jesus' own description of His parousia in Matthew 24:29·32: "They will see the Son of Man coming (parousia)...with power and great glory." Here Peter compares the glorious Transfiguration to the appearance of Jesus in glory at His coming (parousia). This visible coming in power and glory complaments the APOKAlypsis when He is revealed to all, believer and unbeliever alike.
2 Peter 3:4 And saying, Where is the promise of his COMING (PAROUSIA)? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
1 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his COMING (PAROUSIA).
The words "when he appears" place this scenario after the Tribulation; "appears" is used in Matthew 24:29,30: "Immediately after the Tribulation of those days.. the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth shall mourn." Chart:
None of these eight verses indicate anything of a pretribulational "Parousia," leaving our last four verses using this word.
The last four verses using "Parousia" force the pretribulationists to depart from the time period they've set for it. These break their doctrine because these verses place the Church on earth in a posttribulational scenario, and leave us with the question: If the Church was raptured seven years earlier, what is it now doing on earth after the Tribulation? The answer is simple. The assumption of a pretribulationally raptured Church is just that - an unscriptural assumption.
1 Thessalonians 4:15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the COMING (PAROUSIA) of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Comments: The shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God depict anything but an unnoticeable coming for the Church. When considered as the Parousia Jesus mentioned in Matthew 24, we find no problem regarding His Parousia (coming) for the Church. The resurrection is part of the hope of Salvation that Peter said extends to the day when Christ is revealed (1 Pt. 1:5,13).
2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the COMING (PAROUSIA) of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
This verse breaks the pretribulational timing of the Parousia since Paul is speaking of our being gathered to Christ at his Parousia in the Day of the Lord. The problem for pretribulationism is that Paul says the Day will not come until after the apostasy happens and the man of lawlessness is revealed. Therefore, the Parousia can't occur either. It is pushed into at least the last half of the Tribulation period because the Church is gathered in the Day of Lord after these other two events occur. Establishing the Day of the Lord at the end of the Tribulation period pushes this Parousia to the end of the Tribulation also, the same one Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24 with no conflicts since they are the same Parousia.
See notes for 1 Corinthians 15:23, 1 Thessalonians 3:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:23. Notice also that "...our being gathered to him" again refers to 1 Pt. 1:5,13.
2 Thessalonians 2:8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his COMING (PAROUSIA):
Comment: This verse also break the pretribulational timing of the "Parousia" since the antichrist is destroyed in a very visible "Parousia" at the end of the Tribulation. He cannot be destroyed at the beginning of the Tribulation since at the time he hasn't even been revealed yet. It shows the inconsistency in the belief in the Pretribulation Parousia which they say occurs before the Tribulation.
2 Peter 3:11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
12 Looking for and hasting unto the COMING (PAROUSIA) of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
Comments: The Church is to look for the day when the heavens are dissolved in fervent heat. How can this be pretribulational secret Parousia of the coming of the Lord for His church? Impossible.
Let's take a tally. If the pretribulational secret Parousia had been mentioned it in any one of the eight verses above, the Pretribulational Parousia would possibly be beleivable, but it is not. Then we have our last four verses, which we commented on, and which describe a Parousia that is definitely posttribulational. Two place the Church in a scenerio that is a visible coming (parousia) of Christ, a third depicts the destruction of the evil one by the brightness of His Parousia, and the fourth describes the Church looking for the fiery destruction in "the day of God." These four, along with the posttribulational "Parousia for the Jews" Jesus Himself described in Matthew 24, reveal a Parousia as occurring after the Tribulation and in which the Church on earth is involved. The question is obvious: On what basis did pretribulationists arrive at their pretribulational Parousia? It is not even mentioned where this word is used.