“The Second Coming and the Rapture”
I Thessalonians 4:13-18
- The rapture and the second coming of Christ are often confused. Sometimes it is difficult to determine whether a scripture verse is referring to the rapture or the second coming. However, in studying end-times Bible prophecy, it is very important to differentiate between the two.
- The rapture is when Jesus Christ returns to remove the church (all believers in Christ) from the earth.
- The rapture is described in I Thessalonians 4:13…But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
- Paul here is writing to the church at Thessalonica in answer to questions that they obviously had about the rapture. He encourages them to not cry or mourn too much (sorrow) about their death because Jesus will be bringing them back with Him!
- Jesus will bring all the dead in the body back with Him at the rapture of those saints (saved) who are alive on the earth at that time…Look now at verse 15) For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16) For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17) Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
- There will be many saved people who will die right at the time of the rapture. Those saved people are considered to be “the dead in Christ” who “rise first.”
- Paul is telling the church this because they were worrying about nothing. Some people have a lot of anxieties about the rapture or the 2nd coming and so then they need to be informed as to not create panic.
- Satan loves nothing more than to create panic, anxiety, unrest, and ruin the joy of the believer that Christ wants His church to enjoy.
- Verse 18) Wherefore comfort one another with these words. Paul wants the church to be comforted with the facts… the dead are with Christ and He will be bringing them back to meet you in the air and will always be with the Lord.
- I Corinthians 15:51…Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed (to a glorified body like Christ), 52) In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
The rapture is when the believers who have died will have their bodies resurrected and, along with believers who are still living, will meet the Lord in the air. This will all occur in a moment, in a “twinkling of an eye.”
The second coming is when Jesus returns to defeat the Antichrist, destroy evil, and establish His millennial kingdom. We (the saved) will be with Him.
The second coming is described in Revelation 19:11-16.
I. The important differences between the rapture and second coming
A) Meeting in the air
- At the rapture, believers meet the Lord in the air (I Thessalonians 4:17).
- At the second coming, believers return with the Lord to the earth (Revelation 19:14…And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.)
- Let us go to Matthew 24. This passage of scripture is many times misinterpreted as scripture talking about the Rapture. It doesn’t.
- Matthew 24 must be recognized in this manner…
- Verses 1-2…The Temple being destroyed (already happened in A.D. 70)
- Verse 3…The disciples questions “…when will these things be?” and “…what will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age? Note two important things in these questions… “Your coming” and “end of the age.” Your coming refers to the Jesus’ second coming not the “Rapture.” The end of the age is referring to “the end of the age of man” or the “end of the world.”
- Verses 4-26…Jesus is describing the 7 years of tribulation which takes place after the rapture and before His 2nd Coming…
- Vrs. 13…”he who endures to the end shall be saved” The “he” is the Jews that will endure the torture and ridicule of the Anti-Christ to “the end” of the tribulation.
- Vrs. 14 “…the end will come.” After all the world has received the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Verses 27- 51…describes the 2nd Coming and the events leading up to it.
- Vrs. 27, 28 – He will come in the east, as quick as lightning
- Vrs. 29 – His 2nd coming will happen immediately after the tribulation.
- Vrs. 30-35 – Heaven (the second heaven) and earth shall pass away.
- Vrs. 36 – 44 – No one will know when Christ will return during the tribulation. It will be like the days of Noah. Note: that it is not so much as the wickedness of the days of Noah but that everyone will be so involved with their everyday life that it will catch them unaware of the events that led up to His coming that Christ warned about.
- Verse 44…Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Meaning… That Christ’s followers (disciples) should be ready if He should come earlier or later than expected. Be ready at all times.
B) After the great Tribulation
- The rapture occurs before the tribulation (I Thessalonians 5:9…For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
- Revelation 3:10… Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
- The second coming occurs after the great and terrible tribulation (The tribulation is further described in Revelation chapters 6–19).
C) Removal of believers
- The rapture is the removal of believers from the earth as an act of deliverance (1 Thessalonians 5:9…For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,)
- The second coming includes the removal of unbelievers as an act of judgment . Revelation 19:15…And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
D) Visible, and secret
- The rapture will be secret and instant (1 Corinthians 15:52…In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.).
- The second coming will be visible to all (Revelation 1:7… Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
E) When they occur
- The second coming of Christ will not occur until after certain other end-times events take place.
- II Thessalonians 2:4… Who opposeth and exalteth himself (Satan/antichrist) above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he (Satan/antichrist) as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. The Antichrist will make people believe that he supports religion when in reality, he doesn’t.
- Matthew 24:15-30…
- Revelation chapters 6–18.
- The rapture is imminent; it could take place at any moment
- Titus 2:13… Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
- I Corinthians 15:52…In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
II. Why Rapture and Second Coming Separate?
A) If they were the same…
- If the rapture and the second coming are the same event, believers will have to go through the tribulation (I Thessalonians 5:9; Revelation 3:10).
B) Certain things must happen first
- If the rapture and the second coming are the same event, the return of Christ is not imminent—there are many things which must occur before He can return (Matthew 24:4-30). Prophecy must be fulfilled.
C) Primary attention is on Israel
- In describing the tribulation period, Revelation chapters 6–19 nowhere mentions the church. During the tribulation—also called “the time of trouble for Jacob” (Jeremiah 30:7)—God will again turn His primary attention to Israel (Romans 11:17-31).
D) Similar but separate events
- The rapture and second coming are similar but separate events.
- Both involve Jesus returning.
- Rapture=return for His church but not to earth… “meeting in the air.”
- 2nd Coming= return with the church to the earth to remove all that is wicked and to rule and reign for 1000 years.
- Both are end-times events.
- Note the important differences…
- The rapture… is the return of Christ in the clouds to remove all believers from the earth before the time of God’s wrath.
- The 2nd coming… is the return of Christ to the earth to bring the tribulation to an end and to defeat the Antichrist and his evil world empire.