ASPECTS OF THE RETURN OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

The Rapture and the Second Coming

The First and Second Advents of Jesus the Lord are both described in Titus. Notice that the Second Advent is divided into two phases: The coming of Jesus for his saints (his parousia, the event we call the rapture) and his coming in glory (his epiphaneia,) with his saints:

"For the grace of God has appeared [the First Advent of Jesus]
for the salvation of all men,
training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions,
and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world,
awaiting our blessed hope,
[the rapture]
and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
[the Second Coming in glory]
who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity
and to purify for himself a people of his own
who are zealous for good deeds."
(Titus 2:11-14)

Jesus will come for his bride, the true church at an unexpected hour. This is made clear by the use of the term "like a thief in the night." Seven years later Jesus will be publicly unveiled on earth, with his saints:

"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect." (Matthew 24:36-44)

"For the Lord [Jesus] himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. But as to the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people say, 'There is peace and security,' then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape. But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But, since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." (1 Thessalonian 4:16-5:11)

The Greek word used to describe the return of the Lord Jesus for his church, parousia, occurs in 2 Peter 1:16, 1 Cor. 15:23, 1 Thess. 3:13, 4:15, 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1, James 5:7,8, 2 Peter 3:4, Matthew 24:3, 27, 37; 1 John 2:28. The Greek word means an arrival and a consequent remaining with someone.

2Pet. 1:16 "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty."

1Cor. 15:23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

1Ths. 3:13 "...so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

1Ths. 4:15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.

1Ths. 5:23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2Ths. 2:1-2 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

James 5: 7-8 Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

2 Peter 3:3-4 First of all you must understand this, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own passions and saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation."

2 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

Matthew 24:3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?"

Matthew 24:27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man.

Matthew 24:37 As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man.

The Second Coming of Jesus in power and great glory openly before the whole world is described by the Greek word epiphaneia which means a shining forth. This word occurs in 1 Tim. 6:14, 2 Tim. 4:1-8; 2 Thess. 2:8, Titus 2:13.

1 Tim. 6:14-16 I charge you to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; and this will be made manifest at the proper time by the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

2 Tim. 4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom.

2 Thess. 2:8-10 And then the lawless one will be revealed (apokalupsis), and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing (epiphaneia) and his coming (parousia). The coming (parousia) of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved

Titus 13-14 "...awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds

The following passages refer to the Second Coming of Jesus, His open unveiling in glory at the time He comes to set up His kingdom on earth:

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matthew 24:29-31)

"Behold, a day of the LORD is coming, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in the midst of you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward. And the valley of my mountains shall be stopped up, for the valley of the mountains shall touch the side of it; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD your God will come, and all the holy ones with him. On that day there shall be neither cold nor frost. And there shall be continuous day (it is known to the LORD), not day and not night, for at evening time there shall be light. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it shall continue in summer as in winter. And the LORD will become king over all the earth; on that day the LORD will be one and his name one." (Zechariah 14:1-9)

"Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses. From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords." (Revelation 19:11-16)


Ray C. Stedman says,

Two Phases of His "Presence"

When Jesus speaks about his return he is not referring to a single moment of time when he will appear, but his talking about a return that covers a period of time. It will begin with a secret arrival, when he will come like a thief in the night. This will be the beginning of his "presence." But that presence will continue throughout all the time of trouble on earth, but behind the scenes, as it were, invisible to the world. Then, "after the tribulation of those days," he will manifest his presence visibly, appearing in power and great glory.

This invisible presence of Jesus on earth is not something wholly new. During the forty days after his resurrection he was in exactly this condition. He appeared and disappeared among his disciples and they never knew when he was coming or when he would go. He was suddenly there, and just as suddenly gone. He was here, but not here. For forty days this manifestation went on until he ascended into heaven. When he comes again he will resume the same relationship to the believing Jews and Gentiles of that time. The church will be caught up to be with him, to join him in that remarkable presence during the terrible days of trouble on earth.

The Church Removed

The removal of the church is described also in other passages. Paul writes to the Thessalonians about that, too in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18:

"For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming [parousia] of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep [died]. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words."

This event is call the departure of the church. An older word for it is the "rapture" of the church. As you will note in what Paul says about it, it is intended to be a source of comfort to Christians. It is called in Titus 2:13 "our blessed hope." It means that one whole generation of Christians will not physically die, but will pass directly into a glorified state, as Jesus did on the Mount of Transfiguration before the astonished eyes of Peter, James and John (Matthew 17:2). No wonder one Christian said, "I'm not waiting for the undertaker; I'm waiting for the uppertaker!"

Don't let your imagination run away with you in trying to conceive what this event will be like. It is highly likely that it will not be visible to the world. It will be unseen and unfelt, with no disturbance of graves and nothing to indicate that anything has happened other than the strange disappearance of thousands. Just as the body of Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and passed out through the tomb in which he had resided without any physical manifestation whatever, so this event will take place. The stone was not rolled away from Jesus' tomb to let him out; it was rolled away to let the disciples in-so they could see what had happened. When Peter came in and found the grave clothes still lying as though wrapped around a body, but with the body absent, he was convinced that something unusual had occurred. So this will be a silent event, recognizable only by the unexplained disappearance of many. Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 15:51,52:

"Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed."

The whole point of our Lord's revelation of this fantastic event is, as he puts it, "Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming." Do not be deceived, do not be misled or swept off your feet by the persuasive lies of unbelief in this day. Do not be distracted by the siren sounds of a deceived society which vainly imagines that all will go on forever as it does now. Do not be deterred in your service by the growing power of evil or the dark gloom of deluded men who can switch suddenly from glowing optimism to shuddering despair. The great removal can come at any time. Are you watching? (http://raystedman.org/olivet/oliv04.html)

The most dramatic event in all history will be the visible appearing of Jesus Christ. No one can possibly miss it when it occurs. He himself describes it for us in Matthew 24:29-31:

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."

This is the most prophesied event in the Bible. The Old Testament contains many references to it, and it has been estimated that in the New Testament one verse out of ten refers to this coming of Jesus Christ. If all the references to this event were taken out of the New Testament, you find it unintelligible in many parts.

From "Presence" to Unveiling

But we must be careful to understand it in relation to the parousia, the presence of Jesus, which has been going on since the Church was taken out of the restrictions of time before the end of the age began. This flaming advent is part of the parousia, actually the event that marks the end of the secret presence. It is the outshining of his presence before the eyes of the whole world. What he has been in secret to his own during the dark days of the tribulation, he now will be openly before the whole world. He will especially manifest himself to the Lawless One. Paul says, "The Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming" (2 Thessalonians 2:8).

That last phrase, "his appearing and his coming," is literally, "the epiphany of his parousia." Epiphany is a word that means unveiling, or outshining. Taken in that sense, Paul is calling this dramatic appearance of Jesus Christ, "the unveiling of his presence." It is the startling climax of the whole period which Jesus calls "the close of the age."

The final crashing crescendo of civilization's last hour will be accomplished in three sweeping movements. Each of these is traced in broad strokes by Jesus. The first is a violent activity in nature:

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken."

Notice that the Lord Jesus distinctly separates this event from the Great Tribulation. The tribulation will be essentially the manifestation of the naked brutality of man, the exhibition of the cruelty and unbelievable violence of the human heart unrestrained by grace. It is described for us in detail in the book of the Revelation, especially in the judgments of the seals and the trumpets. It will be a time when the horrors of Nazi persecution, reflected in the gas chambers of Buchenwald and Dachau, will be repeated all over the earth; a time when violence stalks the streets, and the nuclear witches of terror scream through the skies. As Jesus said, it will be a day of unprecedented human evil, of terrible slaughter and human suffering.

But immediately following this tribulation terrifying signs appear in the heavens. The phrase, "the powers of the heavens will be shaken," suggests severe gravitational disturbance of the solar system. This in turn would produce phenomenal effects on the earth. Showers of meteors will flash through the darkening skies. Earthquakes cause the land to heave and shake, and great tidal waves sweep the coasts. Luke reports that, "men [will be] fainting with fear," and there will be great "distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves." Volcanoes erupt, spouting out streams of lava and vast clouds of cinder and ash which obscure the sun and the moon. The sun is darkened and the moon reddens and is finally unable to shine at all. (http://raystedman.org/olivet/oliv08.html)

Also from Ray Stedman,

THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS

COMMENTATORS HAVE OFTEN portrayed the second coming of Jesus as a single dramatic event (Matt. 24:21, 29), following the Great Tribulation, where the Lord will suddenly appear in power and great glory, visible to every eye (Rev. 1:7). The church will be caught up to meet Him and will then return with Him to earth (1 Thess. 4:13-18) where He will judge the living and dead. This either establishes His millennial kingdom or ushers in the new heaven and new earth, depending on which millennial view the commentator holds.

This scenario has numerous difficulties connected with it, however, not least of which are the several promises in the New Testament that the true church will not be present during the Great Tribulation. A key to understanding the teaching of the New Testament on this subject is the Greek word parousia. This word is commonly translated "coming," which in the mind of the reader projects the vision of the single dramatic appearance described above. But parousia should properly be translated "presence." This is the mean-ing given first by both Thayer and Arndt and Gingrich lexicons and includes the idea of an entrance, a consequent duration, and either an exit or a continued presence. It is not, therefore, a single event (V), but a continuum (I---------I) of unspecified duration.

This meaning is the only way to make sense of Jesus' revelation in Matthew 24 of His return to earth in the last days. There He describes a coming in power and glory immediately following the terrible time of trouble that He calls "the great tribulation" and the darkening of the sun and moon and the falling of the stars from heaven (Matt. 24:28-30). But it would be impossible for such a coming to take anyone by surprise who knew of our Lord's description. For in the same chapter Jesus speaks of His coming as unexpected and sudden as the flood came upon the people of Noah's day; and He likens it to a thief creeping into a household at night, without warning, and surreptitiously removing its treasure (vv. 36-44). Yet how could His coming be both unexpected and preceded by such cosmic events of dramatic character?

The only answer is that one passage describes His initial, totally unheralded and unexpected appearing while the other describes the disclosure of His presence by a dramatic display of power and glory after the Tribulation has run its course and the sun, moon, and stars have done their predicted thing.

Jesus' coming like a thief would be a fulfillment of I Thessalonians 4:13-18: He would catch up His true church to Himself and then remain on earth during all the events of the Tribulation, but in the same conditions He manifested during His forty-day post-resurrection ministry when He appeared and disappeared at will. After the darkening of the sun and the moon He would disclose His presence to the entire earth in fulfillment of Matthew 24:28-30 and Revelation 1:7. Thus His initial, thief-like coming, His continued presence behind the scenes on earth, and His final revelation in power would all be covered by the term parousia. It is noteworthy that where Paul refers to the public revelation of Jesus in 2 Thessalonians 2:8, he calls it "the splendor of his coming" (NIV), which literally means "the epiphaneia ("out-shining") of his parousia ("presence").

But what happens to the church after it is caught up to meet the Lord in the air, as I Thessalonians 4:13-18 describes? The answer of Scripture is "so shall we ever be with the Lord." Wherever the Lord is, there the church will be also, sharing with Him in His work whatever it will be. But some may object, "I thought the church was to be in heaven with the Lord."

And indeed it will--but what and where is heaven? It is certainly not another place in the cosmos, within the time-space continuum with which we are familiar. In the light of the new physics of Einstein and others, many are coming to see that heaven is a term for another dimension of existence. It need not be spatially removed from us at all, but may be as present on earth as it is anywhere else. When Jesus appeared and disappeared in the course of His post-resurrection ministry, He was simply stepping in and out of the invisible dimension where spiritual realities exist--heaven. Yet all the time He was in some sense on earth, for He said that He had not yet ascended to His Father.

While I admit that this may be somewhat speculative and mysterious, it is supported by several passages of Scripture. It simply implies that the church (consisting of believers with glorified bodies) will accompany the Lord in His behind-the-scenes directing of the events of the Tribulation. It is this same church that the apostle John sees under the symbol of a glorious city, coming from heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. The marriage supper of the Lamb will already have taken place in those invisible realms while the events of the Tribulation rage on earth.

(Appendix to Ray C. Stedman, Waiting for the Second Coming, Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids, 1990. (http://raystedman.org/thessalonians/)


Additional Notes:

Rapture (from Lat. Rapio "seize, carry away") The Rapture is an event where every believer is instantly taken up to meet Jesus in heaven without experiencing death. This event is similar to what Enoch experienced when he walked with God and he was not, for God took him (Gen 5:24). Another similar example is when Elijah: was taken up by the Lord to heaven without seeing death (2 Kings 2:1-15).

The Rapture is to be the eschatological event in which Christians still living on the earth will be "caught up together with them (deceased Christians who have already been resurrected absent from the body present with the Lord 2 Cor.5:8) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air" (1Thess. 4:13-18). The rapture contains within it several aspects of eschatological expectation, including the hope for the gathering together of God's people, who have been separated by death, geography or circumstances, and their being united with their Lord (1 Thess. 3:13; 4:16-17; 2 Thess. 2:1); the hope for God's vindication of his people and judgment of their enemies (Luke 18:7-8; 2 Thess. 1:6-10); the hope for unending life (1Cor. 15:51-56); unless those days are shortened the expectation of sudden judgment (Matt. 24:36-44); God did not appoint us to wrath (1Thess. 5:9); His eminent return (1 Cor.1:7; Phil 3:20; Titus 2:13; Heb. 9:28) and the hope of the release of the righteous from a troubled world (Rev. 3:10).

Some people reject the idea of the Rapture because they say it's not in the Bible but that would depend on what Bible you had because if it where the Latin Vulgate you would have the word Rapiemur from which we get the English word Rapture. As far as words go the word Bible cannot be found but we believe in the Bible, we do not see the word Trinity but the Bible teaches the concept of the Trinity.The teaching of the rapture is presented clearly in 1 Thess. 4:13-18 in this passage Paul informs his readers that those living Christians at the time of the rapture will be united with those who have died in Christ before them. In verse 17 the English phrase "caught up" is translated from the Greek word harpazo which means to snatch up; seize by force; lead away forcibly; to steal; carry or drag away. In Acts 8:39 Philip upon completing a baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch is "caught up" and divinely transported from the desert to the coastal town of Azotus. Similarly, the church will in a moment of time be taken from earth to heaven when Christ comes for His church.

It is very likely that the rapture is referenced in 2 Thessalonias 2:3. The first three verses of 2 Thessalonians 2 read as follows: 1. Now, brethren, concerning the coming [parousia] of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2. 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. 3. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away [Greek apostasia] comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." Thomas Ice discusses in detail why the apostasia is probably a reference to the rapture. I agree with this interpretation as did my mentor the late Ray C. Stedman. See http://www.pre-trib.org/article-view.php?id=165

Christ coming for His church (Rapture) is not to be confused with His second coming (Judgment) these are two separate events:

 Rapture Passages  Second Coming Passages
John 14:1-3
Romans 8:19
1 Corinthians 1:7-8
1 Corinthians 15:51-53
1 Corinthians 16:22
Philippians 3:20
Philippians 4:5
Colossians 3:4
1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:19
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
1 Thessalonians 5:19
2 Thessalonians 2:1
1 Timothy 6:14
2 Timothy 4:1, 8
Titus 2:13
Hebrews 9:28
1 Peter 1:7, 13; 5:4
Revelation 2:25; 3:10
Daniel 2:44-45
Daniel 7:9-14
Daniel 12:1-3
Zechariah 12:10
Zechariah 14:1-15
Matthew 13:41
Matthew 24:15-31
Matthew 26:64
Mark 13: 14-27
Mark 14:62 , 23
Luke 21:25-28
Acts 1:9-11
Acts 3:19-21
1 Thessalonians 3:13
Jude 14, 15
Revelation 1:7
Revelation 19:11-20:6
Revelation 22:7, 12, 20

Rapture and Second Coming Contrasted

Could return at any moment
Don't know the time
Earth not judged
Translated saints go to heaven
Rapture is a mystery
Before the day of wrath
No reference to Satan
He comes for His own (bride)
He comes in the air
Comes for believers only
Only His own will see Him
Tribulation begins
Before the day of wrath

 Following timed events
31/2 years after Abomination of Desolation
Earthed judged
Translated saints return to earth
Predicted often in Old Testament
Concluding the day of wrath
Satan bound
He comes with His own (bride)
He comes to the earth
His return will impact all people
Every eye will see Him
Millennial kingdom begins
Concluding the day of wrath


Prophetic outline of Revelation explained in Revelation 1:19

John is told by Jesus to write down the things which he has seen, the things that are, and the things which will take place after this.

Revelation 1:9-18 the things which John has seen
Revelation 2:1-3:22 the things that are: letters to the seven churches (church age)
Revelation 4:1-22:21 the things which will take place after the church age.
In Revelation 4:1 it says after these things, which are, is when the rapture occurs: The Greek word here is meta tauta "after these things" referring to the church being received in heaven. After this event the church is not mentioned on earth but in heaven.
Revelation 4:1-5:14 the church worshipping in heaven
Revelation 6:1-18:24 the tribulation period
Revelation 19:1-21 the second coming of Christ, coming with His church
Revelation 20:1-5 millennium kingdom
Revelation 21:1-22:21 new earth

The premillennialism view sees Christ's return as preceded by a definite seven-year period of tribulation and followed by the millennium. Premillennialism (prior to great tribulation) and midtribulation (midpoint) views of the rapture tend to think of that event mainly as the escape provided for believers from the troubled world of the end times. Pretribulationism positions, in effect, two second comings of Christ, the first an invisible "secret rapture" (of Christians) before the tribulation, the second a return with the previously raptured saints to judge the wicked and inaugurate the millennium.

Partial rapturism, another variant of pretribulationism, warns that only those in a sanctified state will be caught up before the tribulation; backsliders must endure the tribulation until the final coming of Christ (1Pet. 1:6-7; cf. Matt. 6:13; Luke 21:34-36; Rev. 3:10).

What does the New Testament say about the time of Jesus' Coming? Christ said, "No one knows about the day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Matt. 24:36). Since we cannot place Christ's return in any given century or decade, Christians are told to "keep watch." Jesus taught, "You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him" (Matt. 24:42-44).

Suggestions For further Reading:

The Rapture Question by John Walvoord
The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook by John Walvoord
The Return by Thomas Ice and Timothy J. Demy
Rapture Under Attack by Tim Lahaye
Caught up by Brian Brodersen

From: Net Bible Institute

Are There Some People Who Will Never Die? (The Rapture Of The Church) Since the fall of humanity, with Adam and Eve, the normal experience for each human has been death. The writer to the Hebrews stated.

"...it is appointed for humans to die once, and after that the judgment." (Hebrews 9:27).

As we read through the pages of the Old Testament, we find this truth emphasized. There were, however, two exceptions to this rule - Enoch and Elijah. Neither of these men died. The Bible says of them.

"Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away." (Genesis 5:24).

"As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven." (2 Kings 2:11).

A Mystery Revealed

Not only are Enoch and Elijah the exception to the rule about death, the New Testament reveals to us something that had not been foretold - there will be a generation of people who will never die.

Rapture Of The Church

Before Christ returns to earth there will be an event known as the "rapture," or "translation" of the church. The Scripture explains it in the following manner.

"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the Word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord Himself, with a shout, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words." (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Another explanation is given in First Corinthians.

"Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:51-58).

Observations

From these passages we can make the following observations.

1. Not Everyone Will Die

Although death has been the norm for humanity, the Old Testament recorded two prominent exceptions - Enoch and Elijah. The New Testament also says that a living generation of Christians will not experience death, but will be taken up to meet the Lord.

2. No Need Of Resurrection

Those believers who are living at the time of the rapture, or translation, of the church, will not have to be resurrected. They will be changed, while they are alive, from mortal to immortal, from corruptible to incorruptible.

3. Meet Christ

Those who are instantaneously changed at the time of the rapture of the church will be with Christ forever in their glorified body.

Summary

The resurrection from the dead will be what most believers experience. A small number in comparison will not die but will be changed as was the case with the Old Testament characters Enoch and Elijah. This event is known as the "rapture" or "translation" of the church.

Lambert Dolphin
lambert@ldolphin.org
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revised March 31, 1995, July 19, 2002, August 13, 2002, September 18, 2002. March 31, 2004.