A look at “The Vanishing Of Christians And The Second Coming Of Jesus Christ”
In this edition of “Theology & Culture”, we want to spend some time discussing the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. The study of End Time events is at the forefront of many people’s minds because of what we see happening in the world around us.
Passages such as Matthew 24; 1 Timothy 4 and 2 Timothy 3, remind us of certain attitudes, events, and false teaching that will be increasingly evident before the Lord returns, both for His church and later His physical return to planet earth. We are going to briefly explore these two future happenings from a Biblical perspective.
There is something else to consider as well. Though Christians agree on many key topics, there are differences of opinion when it comes to events of the “last days.” A person’s interpretation of certain passages, both Old and New Testament, will determine your viewpoint on some areas of doctrine, and one in particular is prophecy.
For example, there are those who do not believe that Jesus will rule on earth for a literal 1,000 years. Though Revelation 20:1-6 mentions this period of time, the way individuals interpret this passage of Scripture along with how they see other verses of the Bible, will determine whether someone believes that Jesus will actually rule and reign on earth for this long period of time, or not.
I would encourage you to read the previous blog article “Christian Zionism” since one’s viewpoint of God’s relationship with Israel and the promises He made to Abraham (Genesis 12; Genesis 15) will also affect how you see certain “end time” events.
Let us now get to the focal point of our discussion. The Bible speaks often about the return of the Lord Jesus (e.g., John 14:1-6; Matthew 24:29-31; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). There are two events that are yet to happen as it relates to Christ coming back. One of those is what we have come to call the “rapture” of the church. This is derived from a Latin word that means “to transport from one place to another.”
From what the Bible teaches regarding this event, there are certain features that must be noted and then we will look at the second event that is still to come. Here are a few key things to note, just three of many points that could be made, regarding Christ returning for His church:
1) When He returns, He meets His followers in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). When He comes for His spiritual children, He does not set foot on earth at this particular time.
2) When He does return, Christ brings the departed saints back from heaven with Him who are reunited with their (now) changed bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). Those who have gone before us, their bodies will rise from the grave first and then we who are still alive at the time of the return of the Lord will join Him in the air and be given new bodies fit for heaven.
3) The only ones to see Christ at this time are those who are Christians. We will be gone in a flash, when the trumpet of the God sounds (1 Thessalonians 4:16). It will be instantaneous.
When it comes to the “rapture”, there are various viewpoints as to the time of the return of the Lord for His people. Some believe that Christ will remove His followers before the seven-year tribulation period (a time of judgment) begins that is spoken of in places such as Daniel 9 and the Book of Revelation (known as the pre-tribulation rapture view, the one that I personally hold to).
Other views include the mid-tribulation rapture view, the belief that the church is removed from the earth half-way through the seven years of judgment. There is also a view know as the pre-wrath view that differs somewhat from the mid-trib view.
And there is the post-trib rapture belief, which teaches that Christ will return for His church at the end of the tribulation period. We are not going to dive into each of these viewpoints. What must be noted is that each view believes Christ is returning at some future date for His church, to take us to be with Him.
This gets us to the second event that relates to the return of the Lord. It is known as the “Second Coming.” It must be noted that some use the phrase “Second Coming” as a covering for the events surrounding the end times, beginning either with the rapture or the seven-year tribulation period.
Scripture, I believe, clearly notes these as two important, yet distinct events. The rapture, as noted, is Christ returning for His church. He does not set foot on earth at that time. The “Second Coming” though is different. Scripture is clear that when Jesus returns to earth at the end of the seven-year tribulation, the world will behold Him and He will set His feet on the Mount of Olives in Israel.
Matthew 24:30 tells us that “all the tribes of the earth” will see Him at this time. Zechariah 14:4 states that on the day of His return to earth the Mount of Olives will be split in half, and Christ will defend His people, Israel, against those set on destroying them.
Another aspect of His Second Coming is that the nations will stand before the Lord in judgment (Matthew 25:31-46). Some of those individuals who are involved in that judgment will enter the 1,000 time period (the millennium) and Christ will rule and reign on earth for that period of time. We will discuss this judgment at a later time.
The rapture and Second Coming are two distinct events. Both are associated with End Times teaching but they are not one and the same. I do not include the rapture when speaking of the Second Coming. I prefer to view them independently with one key thing in common - the Lord Jesus Christ, returning first for His followers and then seven years later coming to earth.
There is a portion of prophetic teachings found in the Old Testament that requires, in the opinion of many, this millennial reign of Christ on earth. Again, how someone interprets the Word of God will lead some to believe there is no 1,000 year reign of Christ while others, including myself, see that Scripture indeed teaches that there is coming a future time in which the Lord Jesus Christ will rule in righteousness on the earth.