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It is important that we distinguish His Rapture of the church from His return to the earth. The first event is secret, as the church is caught up to meet Him in the air. The second event is public, when the church returns with Him to defeat Satan and his hosts.
The English word rapture comes from the Latin verb meaning caught up.) In the clouds probably refers to atmospheric clouds.
The rapture (the “catching away” of the church) from Christ’s Second Coming. At the rapture, he said, Christ will come for his saints; and at the Second Coming, he will come with his saints.
Following the rapture of the church believers will stand before the bema, the judgment seat of Christ, to be recompensed for deeds done in the body, whether good or worthless. Salvation is not the issue; rather, it is the works of the believer. One whose works were done in the flesh will be burned up; there will be no reward, but the believer will be saved—with no works to show for it (1 Cor. 3:15). One whose works are acceptable by the Lord will be rewarded—not in terms of salvation, for that has been established. Rewards are spoken of in terms of crowns (1 Thess. 2:19; 2 Tim. 4:8).
At the time of the Second Advent Israelites will be regathered around the triumphant Son of Man, judged, restored as a nation, and redeemed (Isa. 59:20–21; Ezek. 20:33–44; Zech. 13:8–9; Rom. 11:25–27). Also all the Gentiles will be gathered before Him (Joel 3:2) and like a shepherd He will separate “the sheep” (the elect) from “the goats” (Matt. 25:31–46). These redeemed Jews and Gentiles will enter the millennial kingdom, living on the earth in natural bodies (Isa. 2:2–4; Dan. 7:13–14; Micah 4:1–5; Zech. 14:8–11, 16–21).
Readers are exhorted to look for He is coming. This is His second coming which will be with the clouds (cf. Acts 1:9–11). Every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him.
When Jesus comes for His church the dead in Christ won’t “miss out,” as some thought they might. When Jesus comes in the cloud to gather His church, the dead will rise and then they, with the living, will rise up together to meet the Lord in the air (vv.
Passages On The Rapture
The Rapture of the Church is an event separated by seven years from the Second Coming of Christ. The Rapture will occur first. The more important verses describing this blessed hope of Christians are:
—Rom. 8:23; 13:11
—1 Cor. 15:50–57
—1 Thess. 1:10; 4:13–18; 5:1–9
—2 Thess. 2:1
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.
Repeated Promises Of Coming
Both the Old and New Testaments are filled with promises of the Second Coming of Christ. There are 1,845 references to it in the Old Testament, and a total of seventeen Old Testament books give it prominence.
Of the 260 chapters in the entire New Testament, there are 318 references to the Second Coming, or one out of 30 verses. Twenty-three of the 27 New Testament books refer to this great event. The four missing books include three which are single-chapter letters written to individual persons on a particular subject, and the fourth is Galatians which does imply Christ’s coming again.
For every prophecy on the First Coming of Christ, there are 8 on Christ’s Second Coming.
Descriptions Of Second Coming
(1) Personally—1 Thess. 4:16.
(2) Literally and visibly—Acts 1:11; 1 Jn. 3:2; Rev. 1:7.
(3) In Glory—Matt. 16:27; 24:30; 25:31.
(4) In Power—Matt. 24:30.
(5) With Angels—Matt. 25:31; Rev. 5:11.
(6) Come Quickly—Rev. 22:7, 12, 20; Matt. 28:7, 8.
(7) Unexpectedly—Matt. 24:50; Lk. 21:34, 35.
2. THE TIME OF THE SECOND COMING
Note: ‘No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (Mark 13:32).
A. What is the Second Coming?
1. The personal return of Jesus (Acts 1:10–11).
2. The Final Resurrection of the Dead (1 Corinthians 15:51–55).
3. The Final Judgment (Revelation 20:11–15).
B. What happens at the Second Coming?
1. The ‘last trumpet’sounds (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).
2. Every eye will see Jesus (Revelation 1:7).
3. The souls, or spirits, of the redeemed will be reunited with their bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:13–17).
4. They will be glorified (Romans 8:30; 1 John 3:2).
5. All will stand before God (Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:11).
C. What happens after the Second Coming?
1. The lost are sent to everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:15).
2. The saved are sent to the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21 and 22).
D. What happens just before the Second Coming? Note: it is at this stage we find a lot of division among Christians. We want to avoid being clever or sensational and aim simply to understand the issues:
1. The millennium. When does it take place? Or does it take place?
(a) Millennium: 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1–10).
(b) There are three main views (each held by the best of Christians):
(1) Pre-millennialism: that Jesus will return before the millennium and set up his kingdom on earth, reigning literally from Jerusalem.
(a) Some believe the Rapture (the saved being ‘caught up’) will precede seven years of tribulation, which is culminated in the final Second Coming just before the millennium.
(b) Some believe Christ will come 3½ years after the Rapture—in mid-tribulation.
(c) Some believe that Christ’s coming is at the end of the age, that the Rapture and final Second Coming are one and the same.
(2) Post-millennialism: that Christ will come after the millennium; that the 1,000 years (which may be more symbolic than literal) of peace and prosperity will usher in the Second Coming.
(a) The old idea, that prior to the end the world will get ‘better and better’, died with World War I.
(b) Another view, sometimes called Revolutionary Post Millennialism, is the belief that a Great Awakening, sometimes called Latter Day Glory, will immediately precede the end.
(3) A-millennialism: that the 1,000 years are not to be interpreted literally. In short: there is no such thing as a millennium except the reign of Christ in the life of a believer.
(a) Some take Revelation 20:6 to refer to conversion, as described by Jesus in John 5:24.
(b) Some hold to a Latter Day Glory before the end, believing this to coincide with a restoration of Israel.
2. Israel. Does the nation of Israel figure in prophecy? Is what is happening in the Middle East relevant for prophecy in the Bible? There are, generally speaking, two views:
(a) Israel in Romans 11 refers to the people we know as the Jews.
(1) Israel’s blindness will be lifted much in the same way as salvation was received by Gentiles. This is seen as the time of the Gentiles being ended (Luke 21:24; Romans 11:25).
(2) What is happening in Jerusalem is relevant.
(3) Note: some would say there will be a restoration of salvation to Israel but it need not necessarily refer to what is happening in the land of Israel.
(b) Israel in Romans 11 is simply God’s elect. In a word: Israel is the church, the Bride of Christ.
3. Unfulfilled prophecy. Sometimes called ‘signs of the times’; some believe the following must take place before the Second Coming:
(a) Unveiling of Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
(b) Cosmological phenomena (e.g. earthquakes, signs in heaven) (Matthew 24; Mark 13).
(c) Gospel preached to all nations (Matthew 24:14).
(d) Latter Day Glory (Joel 2).
(e) Political and geographical changes.
God the Father alone knows the time of the Second Coming of Jesus. In the meantime believers wait expectantly for the time when every eye will behold him and every knee bow before him. We have not sought to solve all of the eschatological problems that can come up. This is only a bare outline, an introduction and acquainting with the issues.