While most Christians believe the that Lord will return, the debate of how and when it will happen is not settled. Views vary, each with their own Scriptural interpretation. The Bible does not give us a clear outline in a single passage to explain this event, or events, as it appears to be, so we have to look wide and deep to gain some understanding. For this reason I approach the subject of this circular very cautiously, fully aware that other views exist, as I certainly do not want to alienate good friends because we have different opinions.
As we consider the coming of the Lord, two separate events come into view, as the verses below indicate:
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:17
And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints. 1 Thessalonians 3:12,13
Two different events: being caught up to meet Jesus in the air to be with Him always, and Jesus coming down to earth with all His saints.
The first event is known as the rapture, an event that can happen at any moment; it is imminent, and without prior warning signs. The second event is when Jesus comes back to set up His millennial reign on the earth at the conclusion of the seven year tribulation period that ends with the battle of Armageddon: two events that must take place before Jesus comes back to earth, also known at His glorious appearance. Since the tribulation period must first come to an end, and the Battle of Armageddon must commence, it is therefore not imminent – the timing can actually be determined, based on the fulfilment of these two preconditions.
In this letter we will focus on the rapture, and on the Lord’s glorious appearance in the next one. Please review newsletter #9 on The Lord’s Imminent return. Differences exist on exactly when the church will be raptured as the Bible does not say it in so many words. The popular views are pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation and post-tribulation. All opinions are conjecture, although we can form a view by looking closely at passages of Scripture where this event is addressed.
Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (quoted above) makes it very clear that there will be a meeting with the Lord in the air. That implies a rapture. He alludes to the same concept in his second letter to the same church:
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 2 Thessalonians 2:1,2
“Our gathering together to Him…” This leaves the impression that there will be a gathering to Him, as opposed to Him coming to be with us here on earth.
Jesus told the parable of the ten virgins, discussed in our previous circular, to explain His coming for His bride. Ten girls were waiting on the groom to make his appearance. They did not know when he would come, except that he would come for his bride to take her home with him. In Jewish weddings of the time the groom would go to build a house for his bride after their engagement, and come back to fetch her once he finished his work. When the ten virgins least expected him, at midnight, a call announced his arrival. (Matthew 25:1-13) Read the passage below with this context in mind:
Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:1-3
There is a belief that we will spend eternity in heaven, but that is not what the Bible teaches; we will come back with Jesus to rule with Him when He comes to set up His millennial reign on earth.
And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, for the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with You. Zechariah 14:4,5
“And all the saints with you…” For the saints to come with Him, they first have to be with Him in heaven from where He will come. This lines up with Paul’s view expressed in 1 Thessalonians 3:12,13 quoted earlier.
All major events concerning Christ were foreshadowed by events in the Old Testament, or, as Paul called them, types, symbols and shadows. (See Galatians 4:23-26; Colossians 2:17, Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 10:1) A strong pattern emerges when we look at events where God visited wickedness on earth with destruction, such as:
God removed Noah, a righteous man and his family, before He destroyed the world through the flood. (Genesis 7)
God removed the righteous Lot and his family before He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire. (Genesis 19)
God also removed Rahab and her household, because she hid the two men when they spied the land, before He destroyed Jericho. (Joshua 6:17)
If God follows this pattern, we can expect Him to remove the righteous to spare them the destructions of the seven year tribulation. We do not know the date of such an event, but we do see the signs that point to a period of a tribulation coming on the earth. Various prophecies are being fulfilled before our eyes.
It is obvious that the world has entered into a time when pressure is mounting on so many aspects of life here. Pollution of land, sea and air is out of control. Mass immigration into stable, prosperous countries causes the destruction of safeguarding values by incompatible cultures. Looming trade wars threaten to disrupt economic stability worldwide. Wars and rumours of wars fill our daily news. Instability of weather poses a real threat to the global food supply, coinciding with an explosion in population growth. The world has become an angry place with uprisings, some very violent, in different countries. The list goes on and on.
The Lord speaks to His own through ancient Scriptures that alert us to changes that are coming. Prophecy is not to scare, but to prepare us. Let us heed His voice and be ready for His appearance!
Also read about the imminence of the Lord’s return here
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