Wednesday, April 22, 2015
The Rapture & the Second Coming
Daniel the Prophet foresaw a terrifying beast that will have dominion over the entire earth. He will reign for a week of years, the final week of Daniel’s Messianic prophecy.
The beast will persecute God and the saints for a time, times, and half a time. That period is interpreted as a year, two years, and half a year based on John’s Revelation. Therefore, the beast’s global rampage will span 3.5 years which is the equivalent of 42 months or 1,260 days. That period will be preceded by another 3.5 years when the beast will capture the popular imagination and inspire allegiance and devotion. Hence, the beast will reign for a total of seven years during a period called the Tribulation, the second half of which will be a time of unprecedented suffering, called the Great Tribulation.
The intervals of time revealed in Daniel 12:11-12 can be interpreted as follows: 1,260 + 30 + 45 = 1,335. Thus it is believed that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will occur 30 days after the Great Tribulation. Forty-five days later, Christ will establish His Millennial Kingdom.
The rapture of the saints is also documented in Scripture. Interestingly, the word rapture doesn’t appear in the Bible. It is derived from the Latin verb “rapere” which literally means to be transported from one place to another. The word rapture came into usage to denote the coming of Jesus to gather together His elect.
The Greek word “parousia” is used in Scripture to signify the rapture of the saints. “Parousia” is also used to signify the Second Coming. Hence there is confusion as to whether these are two separate events, a single event, or different aspects of the same event. If you believe they are two separate events, then you believe in a pre-Tribulation rapture. If you believe they are one and the same event or different aspects of the same event, then you believe in a post-Tribulation rapture.
Revelation 3:10 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 are examples of Scriptural evidence supporting a pre-Tribulation rapture. Moreover, some who espouse a pre-Tribulation rapture believe that Christ’s return to establish His Millennial Kingdom will occur on a known day. Their belief is based on the “timeline” which I’ve outlined above. Because Christ’s coming to rapture the saints will occur on an unknown day, they conclude that the rapture and the Second Coming couldn’t be the same event.
While the argument supporting a pre-Tribulation rapture is convincing, I don’t believe that the Second Coming will occur on a known day. In my mind, Matthew 24 makes that perfectly clear. In Matthew 24:29-31, Jesus describes His coming “immediately after the tribulation.” Then, in Matthew 24:36 and 24:42, He states emphatically that His Second Coming will occur on an unknown day: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.”
Some might ask, “What about the timeline? Surely someone living in the Tribulation could calculate the day of Christ’s return.” But has the Bible revealed all the details about the end times? For example, will there be an interruption in the beast’s seven year reign? Will that interruption be linked to his assassination? How much time will elapse between his assassination and the reincarnation? Will it be just a few days or a few months? During that time, will the beast’s assassin seize control of his throne? Hence, the timeline provides an undetailed general plan and nothing more.
Now many consider Matthew 24:31 and 24:40-41 to be a description of the rapture. Those verses read as follows: “And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. Then there shall be two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.” If this is a description of the rapture, then it's a post-Tribulation rapture. If not, then it's a description of Christ gathering together His elect who will reign with Him for a thousand years (Revelation 7:14; 20:4).
When weighing the merits of a pre or post-Tribulation rapture, we mustn’t lose sight of what’s most important, readiness through faith. Remember what Jesus told His apostles before His Ascension. “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” And again, “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” Truly, “we know in part and we prophecy in part but when the perfect comes the partial will be done away with.”