Promise of Victory #1: The Rapture
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 the Second Coming.
The fact that these two are separate events can easily be demonstrated. For example, there are only two detailed descriptions in the New Testament of the return of Jesus. Only two! One is in 1 Thessalonians 4 and the other is in Revelation 19. If you will look at those in detail, you will find something very interesting. The two passages are as different as night and day, which raises a major theological question. The two passages describing the return of Jesus have absolutely nothing in common except that they both focus upon Jesus Christ. And, they could not be any more different.
For an example, let me show you how different they are. In 1 Thessalonians 4, Jesus appears in the heavens. He does not come to earth. In Revelation 19, Jesus returns to the earth.
In 1 Thessalonians 4, Jesus appears in the heavens for His Church. In Revelation 19, He returns to the earth with His Church.
In 1 Thessalonians 4, Jesus appears as a deliverer to deliver His children from this wicked world, but in Revelation 19 He returns as a warrior to pour out the wrath of God.
In 1 Thessalonians 4, Jesus appears in grace. In Revelation 19, He returns in wrath.
In 1 Thessalonians 4, He appears as a Bridegroom for His Bride the Church, but in Revelation 19 He returns to earth as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
How then can these two passages be reconciled? Well, I believe that the only way that they can really be reconciled is to conclude that they are talking about two different events. Therefore, the Second Coming of Jesus is going to be in two stages: first the Rapture, and then later the Second Coming.
Incidentally, this reconciliation solves another problem, for the Bible says repeatedly that the return of Jesus is imminent, in that is it can happen at any moment. But, how can it be imminent if there is only one future coming? If you only believe in one future coming, what's called the Second Coming, then the return of Jesus is not imminent. Imminent means it can happen at any moment. But, if you only believe in the Second Coming and don't believe in the Rapture, the return of Jesus is not imminent. There's no way in the world He could come back today. And why's that? Because there are prophecies that have to be fulfilled.
Here's the point, if there is only one future coming, then the Lord's Return in not imminent because there are many prophecies that must be fulfilled before He can return to earth. There's a whole passel of them, as we say in Texas. I'll just list you a few:
- There must be seven years of Tribulation.
- There must be the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.
- There must be the revelation of the Antichrist.
- There must be the killing of the Two Witnesses.
- The desecration of the Temple by the Antichrist.
- The institution of the Mark of the Beast.
- The salvation of the Jewish remnant.
All of those are things that must happen before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The point again is this 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 any moment without the fulfillment of any prophecies.
This reconciliation solves another problem, in that the Bible says that no one can know the date of the Lord's return (Mat. 24:36,42). No ands, ifs, or buts about it. There are a lot of sincere people who think they do know when the Rapture will occur, but they don't truly know.
The Bible does say that we can know the day of the Lord's return at His Second Coming, though. I don't know if you've ever thought about this or not, but here is the problem — the date of the Second Coming can be calculated precisely. It will be exactly 2,520 days or seven prophetic years, that is 360 days to a year, from the day the Tribulation begins. From the moment when the Antichrist signs that treaty guaranteeing the peace of Israel, you can count down 2,520 days until Jesus will return. We can know the exact date of the Second Coming.
Therefore, the statement about not knowing the date must apply to the Lord's appearing in the Rapture and not in the Second Coming. So, when we hear talking about how you cannot know the date, we are talking here about the Rapture. We are not talking about the Second Coming.
Again, the solution is two future comings — first the appearing of the Lord for His Church at the Rapture, and then the return of Jesus at the Second Coming.
In the third segment of our study on God's promises of victory, we'll look at the second — the Second Coming.