Let's take a quick, overview look at God's Plan for the Ages. There are four major prophesied triumphal events on the horizon that we as born again children of God can look forward to: The Rapture, The Second Coming, The Millennium, and Heaven.
Our first promise of victory is the Rapture of the Church.
This is an event that is often confused with the Second Coming — but they are not the same. A careful study of the Scriptures reveals that the return of Jesus is going to be in two stages — first, the Rapture, and then later, the Second Coming.
The fact that these are two separate events can be easily demonstrated.
There are only two detailed descriptions of the Lord's return in the New Testament — 1 Thessalonians 4 and Revelation 19.
And these two passages are as different as night and day. The two passages have nothing in common except that they both focus on Jesus Christ.
Figure 1 illustrates how different they are.
How can these passages be reconciled? I believe the only way to reconcile these two accounts is to conclude that they are talking about two different events and that the Lord's return will be in two stages — first, the Rapture, and then the Second Coming. First Thessalonians 4 describes the Rapture of the Church. Revelation 19 presents the Lord's return to this earth.
Solving Another Problem
This reconciliation solves another problem.
The Bible says repeatedly that the Lord's return is imminent — that is, it can happen at any moment (Matt. 24:36 & 44). But how can it be imminent if there is only one future coming?
The Point: If there is only one future coming, then the Lord's return is not imminent because there are many prophecies that must be fulfilled before He can return to earth:
- 7 Years of Tribulation
- The Rebuilding of the Temple
- The Revelation of the Antichrist
- The Killing of the Two Witnesses
- The Desecration of the Temple
- The Institution of the Mark of the Beast
- The Salvation of the Jewish Remnant
The Point Again: The only way the Lord's return can be imminent is for there to be a Rapture that is separate and apart from the Second Coming — and which can occur at any moment, without the fulfillment of any prophecies.
Another Problem Solved
This reconciliation also solves another problem.
The Bible says that no one can know the date of the Lord's return. But the date of the Second Coming can be calculated precisely. The book of Revelation says it will take place exactly 2,520 days or 7 prophetic years from the day the Tribulation begins.
Therefore, the statement about not knowing the date must apply to the Lord's appearing in the Rapture. Again, the solution is two future comings — an Appearing and a Return.
In the next installment of "The Promise of Victory," we'll look at the triumphs of the Second Coming and the Millennial Kingdom.