“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16 CSB
“JOHN!! What does this verse mean? I thought Daddy was in heaven! This is saying he’s still in the ground…”
Eighteen years ago, at the time of my Dad’s death, I was a “new” old Christian. That is to say, I was saved at an early age, then drifted away from church as a teen and young adult. Thankfully, God pursued me and brought me back into the fold to a wonderful Bible believing church. I was soaking up God’s Word like a sponge, when my Dad passed away.
I was confident he was in heaven. That’s just what I knew. I didn’t think about where that was, or what it meant. Christians go to heaven when they die. But when I read the scripture in 1 Thessalonians, all I could see was my dad in the ground, not in heaven.
“Honey,” my sweet hubby answered me gently. “Yes, your dad’s body is in the ground, but his spirit is with Jesus. At the rapture, you daddy’s body will rise to meet his spirit, and Jesus, in the air.”
THE RAPTURE OR THE RETURN
Rapture? Huh? I was lost. Is that the second coming? I promised myself then and there that I would learn all I could about heaven, the rapture and end times.
Which brings me to today. I am actually taking an inductive study1 on the book of Revelation. Which is crazy. I’m 63, retired and homework is not in my vocabulary.
I’m also not an eschatology (end times) expert. I wish I was, though, because it’s an extremely cool sounding word. Try it, and see how it rolls off your tongue: ess ka tahl ah gee. The first thing I would tell you about Revelation is this: you’re blessed if you read it. It’s a book of hope. Jesus and all those who follow Him win in the end. Satan is defeated, praise God!
“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it, because the time is near.” Revelation 1:3 CSB
Many people believe the rapture of the church and Jesus’ second coming are one and the same. Here’s what I’ve learned and come to believe: The rapture and the return are two separate events. Let me attempt to explain why I’ve come to this conclusion and believe this.
The rapture is secret, instant (in the twinkling of an eye) and only believers will see Jesus. Jesus comes FOR His church, and believer’s will meet Him in the air. He doesn’t come back to earth at this point. The rapture can happen at any time, and involves removing all believers from the earth before God’s wrath.
At His second coming, Jesus comes back WITH His church. He will actually be back on earth. Everyone will see Him. His second coming will occur at the end of the seven years of tribulation. The second coming marks the return of Christ to bring an end to tribulation by defeating Satan, our enemy. Many things must occur before Jesus’ second coming.2
|THE RAPTURE||THE RETURN|
|Jesus comes FOR His Church. John 14:1-3, 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17||Jesus comes WITH His Church. Colossians 3:4, Zechariah 14:5, Jude 14, Revelation 19:14|
|Caught up with Him in the air. 1 These. 4:13-18||Jesus’ feet touch the earth. Zech. 14:4, Rev. 19:11-21|
|Happens in a moment, too fast for eyes to see. 1 Cor. 15:52||Slow coming, people will see Him come back. Matt. 24:30, Rev. 1:7|
|Only Christians will see Him. 1 John 3:2, 1 Cor. 15:52||Every eye will see Him. Rev. 1:7|
|Can happen at any time. Rev. 3:3, 1 Thess. 5:4-6||Occurs at end of 7 years of tribulation. Dan. 9:24-27, Matt. 24:29-30, 2 Thess. 2:3-8|
|Spirits of those dead in Christ return with Jesus to receive their their resurrected bodies 1 Thess 4:14-16||Christians return with Jesus in already resurrected bodies riding on white horses. Rev 19:11-21|
This is a very simplified explanation of what I have learned, and what I have come to believe. If you’re not sure what you believe or why, I encourage you to dig into God’s Word for yourself, and draw your own conclusions.
So, what does it matter? Why should we study about end times? Several reasons:
To Know God
When I taught through the book of Revelation several years ago, I knew nothing about it. One thing I did see: Even during the Tribulation, our God is a God of second chances. Over and over it seemed the He gave unbelievers the chance to turn to Him.
Studying the end times, we also see that God is Holy and must judge sin. It’s not something we like to think about, but we need to know that judgement is coming.
We also see that God has a purpose and a plan even when things seem out of control. (Kinda reminds me of the world today!). We can trust that He will work all things out for our good and His glory.
To Tell Others
Because we don’t know the day or hour of either event, there is an urgency to tell others about the saving grace of Jesus.
I personally believe that people will be saved during the Tribulation, so why should I be concerned with winning them to Christ now? I imagine the unbelievers I know, going through the hardest times of their life, the Great Tribulation, and realizing they didn’t have to be there.
“If I’d only known about salvation through Jesus, I wouldn’t be here. Why didn’t (insert your name) tell me? Why didn’t they let me know so that I wouldn’t have to go through this? Why wasn’t I told about this day of judgement3?”
Telling others about Jesus is the most loving thing we can do for them!
Do you know Jesus? If you’ve never accepted His gift of life, click here.
Grace be with you,
1 The inductive method of bible study is digging deep into the richness of God’s word. This method is an investigative approach to the Bible using three basic components: Observation Interpretation and Application. Individual study is the first step
2 Matthew 24
3 Jesus’ first coming (as a babe in the manger) was for the salvation of man. Jesus’ second coming will be for judgement of man.