For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.1
A topic of many debates centers on the question:
When is Jesus coming back?
And while this question has been a source of discussion for ages, Jesus does provide us with some clarity when He states:
But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.2
According to Jesus, no one knows the day of His return. Not even Himself.
Yet, even though the specific time is a mystery, we can be sure that He will return to defeat evil and establish His kingdom on the earth, reconciling and restoring all things back to Himself.
But when it comes to the discussion of Christ’s return, there seems to be some confusion surrounding these two ideas:
- The Rapture
- The Second Coming
Both of these events are vital parts of the Biblical narrative, yet each is unique and stands alone.
In order to gain further clarity regarding these two events spoken about in Scripture, let’s look at them individually.
What is the Rapture?
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.3
While the word “rapture” is not specifically used in Scripture, a similar word is used here in 1 Thessalonians.
Paul uses the term harpazo, which is a Greek word meaning “to snatch out or away.”4
According to this Scripture, there will be a point in time where believers will be “caught up” or “snatched away,” taken to be with Jesus in order to escape impending judgment and tribulation that will come on the earth.
This rapture of believers is seen as a way of protection and escape for the times of suffering and tribulation coming to the earth.
People who believe in the rapture, or catching away of God’s people prior to the time of tribulation, are historically referred to as “pretribulationsists.”
What is the Second Coming?
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”5
The Second Coming of Christ is the moment when Christ returns openly and visibly to all, returning once and for all to establish His kingdom on the earth.
The Second Coming is traditionally viewed as subsequent to the Rapture, marking the beginning to the thousand year reign of Christ on the earth, referred to as the millennial reign.
Regarding the Second Coming of Christ, the team at Moody Bible Institute writes
At the end of the Tribulation, Jesus Christ will return with the hosts of heaven as well as the Church to establish the Messianic Kingdom on earth. His Kingdom will last for a thousand years.11 At this Second Coming, the Antichrist will be cast into the Lake of Fire and Satan will be bound for a thousand years. The nations and their representatives will be judged. Israel will be restored to her land, never more to be removed. Christ will reign with firmness and equity.15 His kingdom will be marked by material and spiritual blessing, since the curse upon the earth will be removed.6
It’s this final, climatic return that ushers in God’s kingdom, as well as removes Satan, the Antichrist, and all other forms of evil.
Dr. Alan S. Bandy, author and associate New Testament Professor at Oklahoma Baptist University, had this to say about Christ’s Second Coming
The return of Christ is also final and unalterable. He will come in victory and judgment. While he first came as a babe in a manger and lived gently and humbly, when he comes again he will come as King of kings and Lord of lords.7
It’s this final return that followers of Jesus look to with hope and expectancy, knowing that He has come as a King, to set up His kingdom upon the earth.
What Does This Mean For Today?
Because both of these events take place in the future, at a date and time no one knows, it’s easy to dismiss them as having no real impact on the here-and-now.
But the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ are vital to our faith and provide us with wisdom for how to live our lives each day.
Paul, in his letter to Titus, writes
It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.8
Because we have the hope of resurrection and Christ’s final return to the earth to establish His kingdom, we are empowered to live our lives differently. In light of Christ’s return, we now have the invitation to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives. Lives that are so beautiful and good that it causes the world around us to wonder, ponder, and ultimately, ask: why?
Because we know Christ is returning, we also have a responsibility to preach the Good News of Jesus to the people we encounter.
When we realize that Christ can return at any moment, we begin to live soberly, watching for His return, as well as attentive to the people He places on our path.
The Apostle Peter writes
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.9
God’s desire is that none would perish, spending eternity separated from His Presence.
And we as followers of Jesus have the opportunity and the privilege of sharing the Gospel message with the world.
While the return of Christ is in the future, it still greatly impacts our today.
Summarizing the present impact of Christ’s future return, theologian and minister Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. writes
At its core, then, the present life of the Christian, life in the Spirit, is sharing in Christ’s resurrection life, the life of the age to come.10
As we await Christ’s return, we can walk in His resurrection life today, and share that hope with everyone we meet.
I Want to Learn More
If you’d like to dive deeper into the Book of Revelation and explore Christ’s future return, you can sign up for our course: The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ.
In this course, you’ll explore various topics, such as:
- The Great Tribulation
- The Rise of the Antichrist
- The Victorious Return of Jesus
This online course is an amazing tool to help you better understand the Book of Revelation, as well as the important events detailed throughout it.
To check out this course, or to browse our full library of online courses, click here!
A.W. Tozer once said Jesus is not one of many ways to approach God, nor is He the best of several...
Writing on the deity of Jesus Christ, C.S. Lewis once said Either this man was, and is, the Son of...
When we come to Scripture, we come not only to be informed, but to be transformed. We come with an...
27 books. 260 chapters. Written by fishermen, tax collectors, apostles, and martyrs. The second...