The Blessed Hope is indeed the return of Christ. It's not a secret event, nor does it occur in two "stages". This book plus Ladd's "The Last Things" are an excellent combination. I was raised pretrib and didn't know other viewpoints even existed, but after reading the various Scripture passages closely, the pretrib viewpoint just didn't make sense. Then I learned about what's called the posttribulation view and all the Scriptures fell in place.
Read the Scriptures for yourself without preconceived notions. Think about what they are actually saying. Pray for the Holy Spirit to help you understand. Ladd's books may help you understand further, but God's Word is the primary source.
"The Blessed Hope" carefully studies the Bible to see if a pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church is clearly taught there or if it is equally or even more clearly taught that Christians will go through the Tribulation and be "raptured" only at the end when Jesus returns in glory.
He starts with quotes of what early Christians wrote about Revelation in this regard. He also chronicles how the pre-Tribulation idea first appeared and was promoted around 1831. The author then looked at the verses referring to the blessed hope, Jesus' glorious return, and the rapture as well as the verses pre-Tribulationists use to support their views. He showed that a pre-Tribulation Rapture is, at best, an inference and how the verses used to support it can be understood to support a post-Tribulation view if read in context.
Personally, I've never been able to see a pre-Tribulation Rapture in the Bible despite being taught that by my church since I was a child. I found it interesting that this author used many of the same arguments that I had seen in my study of the Bible.
My mother also read this book. She couldn't see a pre-Tribulation Rapture taught in the Bible, either, but wanted to understand the arguments for it in case she was missing something. She liked that this book explained the pre-Tribulation Rapture argument, but it also pointed out the things she had noticed against it. She now feels confident that she's not missing some truth that she'd been overlooking that would compel belief in a pre-Tribulation Rapture.
The last chapter is somewhat dated as he referred to "current" views, and the book was written in 1956. Also, while I agree that sharing the gospel with the entire world is important, I believe this because that's what Jesus told us to. I don't agree with the author's view that Jesus is prevented from returning until Christians get their act together and have achieved a certain goal as to the number of nations that have heard the gospel. It is God that brings people to belief, and everything is coming about in His timing, not ours.
I think the book presented a very clear explanation about how a pre-Tribulation Rapture came to be taught and why a post-Tribulation "rapture" more solidly fits what the Bibles teaches about the end times. I'd recommend this book to everyone interested in the Rapture.
It has taken me more than 40 years to read this book. I came to know Christ in 1970 and was immediately exposed to the time lines and charts and introduced to those who espoused the pretribulational position of the end times. I graduated from a Bible college and seminary where this teaching held sway. Other interpretations were presented but quickly debunked by my instructors. Later on I became a consumer of the "Left Behind" series and hailed each new volume with hearty "amens." While I have not completely abandoned my eschatological foundations, my adherence to the pre-trib arguments have been shaken in recent years through a fresh look at the Scriptures, in particular how biblical prophecy relates to the mission mandate given by our Lord. Jesus Christ is returning--of that I have no doubt--and He will establish His kingdom on earth. But I am no longer fully convinced that followers of Christ will escape the period known as "the tribulation." Interestingly, the Lord's awakening me to the Church's role in carrying out the Great Commission (and especially verses like Matthew 24:14) has forced me to re-examine my view of the end times. If, as modern missiologists tell us, more than 6000 people groups remain unreached with the Gospel, and those must be reached before the end comes, then can Christ's return be said to be "imminent"? Do believers truly "hasten the day" of Christ's return as they bear witness of Him? If so, then reaching others should be our focus. The pre-trib position tends to titillate date-setters such as Harold Camping, who are warned against in Scripture. Their emphasis to keep our eyes on the skies instead of on fulfilling our Lord's mandate has brought incalculable harm to the Body of Christ in our day. I say all of that to say this about "The Blessed Hope." Although Ladd penned this book more than five decades ago, its relevance is just as valid today. I disdain labels and believe that followers of Christ can co-exist within a number of theological frameworks. It is important, however, that pastors and teachers understand the different views regarding the end times so as to place theological guard rails along the roads their people travel. With so many questionable voices bellowing all around us, how easy it is to be led off-course and even go over the edge. Ladd is an unashamed post-tribulationalist and he does not hesitate to state his convictions, but he does so with grace. Almost to a fault. He seems to intentionally avoid controversy and does not speak disparagingly of his contemporaries with whom he differs. He does an adequate job tracing the history of both the pre-trib and post-trib positions, but without footnotes. This is a shortcoming of the book, which also lacks a bibliography for the student desiring to go deeper. "The Blessed Hope" is an easy read and provides a solid introduction for the one who is beginning to reassess the pre-tribulation position and re-examine how that grid fits into the biblical mandate of reaching all peoples with the Gospel. I wish I had not heeded the advice of some of my early mentors and read this book before now.
FWIW, I had been a pre-trib believer since I was a kid. THat was all I'd ever been taught. But now as a midlife "why do I believe this?" exercise, I decided to do some research on the topic and began with my Bible. I was pretty amazed that, viewing Scripture in context and objectively (pretending I'd never heard of the Second Coming), there wasn't any real evidence of a secret rapture of the Church. Everything pointed to the Second Coming occurring *after* The Tribulation. So I began to do some research on where, exactly, the pre-trib rapture idea came from. Without re-writing Ladd's book, I suggest that you purchase it and read it for yourself. The information is pretty common knowledge out on the web, even; but the tragedy is, too many "pre-trib" believers aren't reading it and are even building doctrine, dogma and creeds around a theory that they can't support with Scripture. The pre-trib theory is just an assumption based on very very loose inferences at best. It should never be on the same level of Scripturally sound teaching as, say, Christ's birth, death and resurrection, folks. Read the book.
This book is well written, and very interesting to read. No previous theological background is necessary. The Blessed Hope is an eye opener about the most commonly promoted view of the second coming of Christ (i.e., pretribulation rapture). Ladd shows that this view is a fairly recent interpretation (a little over 100 years) and is based upon a dispensational interpretation of the Bible, which is a similarly recent phenomenon). You take away dispensationalism, and the pretribulation rapture collapses. Oddly, many people who accept the pre-trib rapture don't know anything about dispensationalism, but you can't have one without the other! It's a very enlightening book. I think this was out of print for many years but is back in print to counteract the eschatology portrayed in the popular Left Behind books and movies. I loved the movies, but afterwards, our whole family sat around studying the Olivet disourse, 1-2 Thessalonians, Daniel, etc. to see that while Left Behind is great entertainment, it is not so accurate eschatology. If you've read Left Behind, you must read Blessed Hope!