Christ’s Return and the Rapture

December 25, 2017 — Leave a comment

As we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ today on December 25 I want to share a few thoughts about the future return of Christ that could occur at any moment.

I am a dispensationalist who believes in the pretribulational rapture and premillennial reign of Christ. Yet, I hold these views lite and loose. They are not points worth arguing and causing disunity within the body of believers. Lots of people smarter than me hold contrary views and I respect those who do.

Often we hear people say, “Christ could come at any moment” or “I’m ready for Christ to come back.” Yet, what does that mean about our beliefs about Christ’s return and the end times? Doesn’t the book of Revelation describe seven years of tribulation of plagues, sores, earthquakes, hail, fires, and other events that indicate judgement which all occur before Christ returns in Rev 19:11?

While there are various views on the return of Christ, here are six reasons I believe Christ will return for his people before the seven years of tribulation begins.

Christ Return and the Rapture

Photo Credit: “Waiting for the Word

I. THE CHURCH IS ABSENT IN REVELATION 4-19 1 

First, the church seems to be absent from the narrative of Rev 4-19. The Greek word for church, ἐκκλεσια, is used nineteen times in Rev 1-3, zero times in Rev 4-19, and one time in Rev 20-22. While it is not good to argue from an “absence of evidence” it does strike me that if the church was on the earth during the time of the Tribulation (Rev 4-19) there would be mentions of it. But, there are none in Rev 4-19. 

II. TWO EVENTS OF CHRIST’S SECOND COMING

Second, the rapture appears to be the first of two events of Christ’s second coming.

Christ comes first for his church to escort her to the Father: 2

When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (John 14:3, NLT, emphasis added)

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, NLT)

Later, after the seven years of Tribulation Christ comes with his saints from heaven to reign on earth:

On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem. And the Mount of Olives will split apart, making a wide valley running from east to west. Half the mountain will move toward the north and half toward the south. You will flee through this valley, for it will reach across to Azal. Yes, you will flee as you did from the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all his holy ones with him.” (Zechariah 14:4–5, NLT, emphasis added)

May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen.” (1 Thessalonians 3:13, NLT)

Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war.” (Revelation 19:11, NLT)

The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses.” (Revelation 19:14, NLT)

III. EXEMPTION FROM WRATH

Third, the Bible teaches that believers will be exempt from the extreme wrath of God described in Revelation 6-19. 

A few of these passages are outlined below: 3

All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” (Ephesians 2:3–5, NLT, emphasis added)

for they keep talking about the wonderful welcome you gave us and how you turned away from idols to serve the living and true God. And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9–10, NLT, emphasis added)

For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9, NLT)

Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.” (Revelation 3:10–11, NLT, emphasis added)

IV. REMOVAL OF THE RESTRAINER

Fourth, the removal of the restrainer—the Holy Spirit—described in 2 Thess 2:1-8 seems to match the absence of the church in Rev 4-19. The restrainer is the person that keeps the Devil at bay during the period of the church

Now, dear brothers and sisters, let us clarify some things about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we will be gathered to meet him. Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us. Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction. He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God. Don’t you remember that I told you about all this when I was with you? And you know what is holding him back, for he can be revealed only when his time comes. For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way. Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1–8, NLT, emphasis added)

There are other views of what or who the restrainer might be. Some have suggested a Roman emperor, a Roman political power, the angel of the Lord, or the church. However, the view that the restrainer seems to be the correct interpretation to me.

V. AN EVENT THAT CAN HAPPEN AT ANY MOMENT

Fifth, the Bible describes Christ’s second coming as something that could happen at any moment

Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:7, NLT)

If anyone does not love the Lord, that person is cursed. Our Lord, come!” (1 Corinthians 16:22, NLT)

But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.” (Philippians 3:20, NLT)

Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.” (Philippians 4:5, NLT)

And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment.” (1 Thessalonians 1:10, NLT)

while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.” (Titus 2:13, NLT)

so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:28, NLT)

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:7–9, NLT)

So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.” (1 Peter 1:13, NLT)

and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.” (Jude 21, NLT)

I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.” (Revelation 3:11, NLT)

“Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds.” (Revelation 22:12, NLT)

He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’ Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20, NLT)

Because there still needs to be seven years of Tribulation, the rapture logically appears to be the first event in God’s orchestration of the last days.

VI. A BLESSING AND HOPE

Sixth, the rapture gives believers a blessing and hope for the future

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (John 14:1–3, NLT)

So encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:18, NLT)

while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.” (Titus 2:13, NLT)

SUGGESTED READING

Want to learn more about the pretribulational rapture? Here’s some recommendations in order of preference:

 

Notes:

  1. These reasons for the pre-trib rapture is adapted from Mark Hitchcock’s book, The Endwhich is a great reference book for end-times events.
  2. I do not intend for these passages to be “proof” texts stripped out of their contexts. I think if you read them plainly and literally the message indicates that believers will be taken away from the wrath described in Revelation 6-19.
  3. I do not intend for these passages to be “proof” texts stripped out of their contexts. I think if you read them plainly and literally the message indicates that believers will be taken away from the wrath described in Revelation 6-19.

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I also may have received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."