The second coming, which encompasses both the rapture and the glorious appearing, is one of the most significant events mentioned in the entire Bible. Conservative evangelical commentators agree that there will be a rapture. The only real question is, when will it occur?
The New Testament picture of our Lord’s return emphasizes at least six distinct aspects of the time of His coming.
1. Future. The entire emphasis of the New Testament points to a future return of Christ. He promised “I will come again” (John 14:3). The angels promised He would return (Acts 1:11). The apostles taught the certainty of His future return (Philippians 3:20; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 3:3-8; 1 John 3:2-3).
2. Imminent. The return of Jesus Christ is always described as potentially imminent or “at hand” (Revelation 1:3; 22:10). Every generation of believers is warned to be ready for His coming, as Luke 12:40 states: “You also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (ɴᴋᴊᴠ). Believers are constantly urged to look for the coming of the Lord (Philippians 3:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:28).
3. Distant. From God’s perspective, Jesus is coming at any moment. But from the human perspective it has already been nearly 2000 years. Jesus hinted at this in the Olivet Discourse in the illustration of the man who traveled into a far country (heaven) and was gone a long time (Matthew 25:14, 19). Peter also implies this in his prediction that men will begin to scoff at the second coming after a long period of time (2 Peter 3:3-9).
4. Undated. The rapture is the next major event on the prophetic calendar, but it is undated, as is the glorious appearing of Christ. Jesus said, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven” (Matthew 24:36). Later He added, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:7 ɴᴋᴊᴠ).
5. Unexpected. The mass of humanity will not be looking for Christ when He returns (Matthew 24:50). They will be saying “peace and safety” when suddenly caught unprepared by His return. His return will be so unexpected that “as a snare shall it come upon them that dwell on the face of the whole earth” (Luke 21:35).
6. Sudden. The Bible warns that Jesus will come “as a thief in the night,” and “sudden destruction” will come upon the unbelieving world (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3). His return for the bride will occur in a flash, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye…for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead [believers] shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52).
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The return of Jesus is a series of events fulfilling all end-time prophecies. These include predictions of His coming for His church and His coming with His church. No system of biblical prophecy is adequate without a rapture. The only real debate is over the question of when. And when the rapture takes place, millions of Christians will disappear in an instant, shaking those left behind and leaving a power vacuum of global proportions that will begin the time of the Tribulation.
Adapted from 15 Future Events That Will Shake the World by Ed Hindson