I have great respect for Dr. J. R. Graves (1820-1893), a great Baptist minister. Yet, I reject his landmarker views and his holding to a pre-trib view of the coming of Christ, to his affirming that the second coming of Christ will occur twice. In reading his book "The Seven Dispensations," he says that "the air" of I Thess. 4: 17 is "paradise"! (pg. 409). He wrote:
"So it will be at the unseen coming of Christ for his saints; they, and they alone, will hear his voice, and in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, will be silently caught up to meet the Lord in the air--Paradise--whither the risen saints have just preceded them to receive their glorified bodies."
Besides the gross error of making the coming of Christ a secret and silent event, he says that the "air" where the saved family of God "meet" the Lord is Paradise. But, as I have shown in a previous posting, the Greek word for "air" is "aer" and denotes the lower firmament, the sphere of air that is below the mountains in distinction to the air that is above the mountains. Further, it is the place of the "clouds," as the text says, "caught up together with them in the clouds." Where does Graves get his authority for calling this area "Paradise"? So, when I fly in an airplane, I am in Paradise? Honestly, some of the things the pre-trib teachers say is laughable.
Of the coming of Christ, described by Paul in I Thess. 4: 13-17, Graves wrote:
"It will not be announced by trumpet sounds audible to the world, or characterized by the visible pomp and pageantry that will make notable his coming with his saints to judge the nations, but his sleeping saints will hear his voice, and come forth, and their open graves mahy be the only evidence to the living wicked that they have been raised, while living saints will be silently as suddenly caught away, 'in a moment, in the twinkling of an ey, to meet their Lord in the air--Paradise--and the sudden absence from their midst of all the recognized righteous will be the only warning of their coming doom the wicked will ever receive." (pg. 406-407)
Notice that Graves again says that the "air" is Paradise. Notice how he, in typical pre-trib fashion, makes the coming of Christ to be secret and silent. Yet, the "shout" of Christ, and the "voice of the archangel," and "the trumpet of God" show that it is anything but silent. Graves says that no one but the saved living and dead hear these sounds, but where does he get his authority for affirming this? In Joshua 6: 5 we read:
"And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him."
It seems to me that Graves has as much a right to say that these sounds were not heard by the inhabitants of Jericho as to say that the world will not hear the sounds that will accompany the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Further, Jesus said: "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matt. 24: 31)
A great sound and yet only saved people shall hear it! Incredulous! Further, it is absurd to say that the coming of Christ will first be an invisible coming, visible to the saved, but to no one else. Again, where does Graves and the pre-tribbers get their authority to say such things? Is it not adding to the word of God? John wrote: "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen." (Rev. 1: 7)
"Every eye shall see him"! Not just the eyes of the righteous! How can any pre-tribber honestly say that the coming of the Lord will be invisible to the world? Yes, I know, the pre-tribber will affirm that the coming of the Lord in Rev. 1: 7 is not the same coming of the Lord as described in I Thess. 4: 13-17. But, again, I ask, where is the authority for saying that they are not the same coming? Where is their authority for saying that the Lord will have more than one coming again? The coming of both texts has Christ coming in or with the "clouds." Further, if he is coming bodily to the lower air, how will this not be visible? His ascent was visible (Acts 1) and he will come in like manner. Jesus also said:
"For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." (Matt. 24: 27)
Here Jesus says his coming will be as visible to men on earth as is lightning!
This doctrine of two comings of the Lord, one visible and the other invisible, and separated by a period of years is a new doctrine, was not taught and believed until the 19th century. It is a novelty and a dangerous doctrine too.