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We believe in the personal, bodily and premillennial1 return of our Lord Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living, sacrificial service and energetic mission.
Jesus promised his followers “I will come again” (John 14:3). When he ascended to heaven, two angels said, “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
Jesus is coming again.
We still await the fulfillment of that promise.
The Second Coming of Christ gives shape and definition to all of world history.
We can think of Christ’s return as a series of related events. Each event fulfills numerous prophecies of Scripture. Each event fulfills the long-developing purposes of God, and finalizes all the wonderful promises of God.
Like many important doctrines, reasonable, Bible-believing Christians disagree on certain details. While all believe that Jesus will come again, not all agree on the sequence or timing of end-time events.
The reason for these disagreements can be found in the nature of biblical prophecy. Much of end-times prophecy overflows with imagery and metaphor. For example:
Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. (Revelation 4:2-5)
Old Testament prophecies can be equally loaded with imagery:
The ten horns are ten kings Who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones, And shall subdue three kings. He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, Shall persecute the saints of the Most High, And shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand For a time and times and half a time. (Daniel 7:24, 25)
I am by no means suggesting that these texts are impossible to correctly interpret. I am suggesting that they are tougher than most, and that reasonable, faithful Bible scholars can disagree, even after they have done the hard work of biblical interpretation.
As long as we agree that Jesus is coming again, we might not agree on the details, and we might not agree on the exact sequence. But we can still love each other. We can still work together on the all-important mission of helping people find and follow God.
Here are some of the main events related to the second coming of Christ. As we go through them, we will mention where Christians might have differing interpretations.
There is a lot of discussion around the Rapture. There is significant debate on whether or not there even is a Rapture.
The Rapture is the event in which Jesus Christ returns, not to earth, but to the sky, to gather up believers from the earth, and to escort them back to heaven.
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17, emphasis added)
In the Rapture, Jesus returns to “the clouds.” He brings along believers who have previously died—their souls/spirits accompany him.
Christians who are still on earth will rise up to the clouds to meet Jesus. In that same moment, their bodies will be instantly transformed with new glories and powers fit for heaven. This is often called the Resurrection Body, because it will be like the body Jesus had after his resurrection.
At the same time, the bodies of Christians who have already died will be miraculously reconstituted. These bodies will be transformed into Resurrection bodies, then resurrected, and finally reunited with their original owners (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52).
Though the word Rapture is not in our English Bibles, a form of the word appears in the Latin translations of the Bible. The words caught up appear in Latin as rapiemur, which gives us the English word Rapture. It means to catch away, to suddenly snatch.
The Rapture will happen so fast, it will seem as if Christians on earth just disappeared. The Bible says it will happen “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52).
One area where Christians might not agree is on whether or not the Rapture in the clouds is a separate event from the Second Coming to earth. If it is a separate event, then it is part one of the Second Coming, and part two—in which Jesus returns to earth—won’t happen till seven years later. If the Rapture is not a separate event, then all these things will happen all at once when the Lord returns.
Another topic up for debate is whether the Rapture happens before, after, or during the middle of the event called the Tribulation (which we will outline in the next section). These views are called pre-trib, post-trib, and mid-trib Rapture views.
The important thing is that God’s Word is overwhelmingly clear that Jesus Christ is personally coming again.
The Tribulation is a period of unprecedented destruction and death on earth. Scripture indicates it will last for seven years.
- “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. (Matthew 24:21)
- Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.” (Daniel 9:27)
Many interpreters suggest the “seven day” in Daniel is a reference to a seven year tribulation.
We can look at the Tribulation as Satan throwing a global temper tantrum in his never-ceasing attempts to usurp the place of Jesus Christ. He will focus his attempts through the rise of a world leader the Bible calls the Antichrist.
The Antichrist is a human person, energized by Satan, who will attempt to replace Christ and bring in a false kingdom of God through deception and force.
Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. (1 John 2:18)
It is likely the Antichrist will emerge on the global stage promising peace, prosperity, and progress, but delivering war, violence, and chaos. Only Jesus Christ can rule this unruly world (2 Corinthians 11:14).
The Bible calls the Antichrist the Beast (Revelation 13:13) and the Man of Lawlessness (1 Thessalonians 2:3). He is empowered by Satan, “the dragon,” himself (Revelation 13:2).
The Antichrist requires the mysterious Mark of the Beast, some kind of bodily mark or implant required to “buy or sell” anything. It is in some undefined way connected with the number 666.
He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is six hundred and sixty-six. (Revelation 13:16-18)
The Mark of the Beast is also a mark of allegiance to Satan, and those who receive it will seal their fate (Revelation 19:20).
Christians have identified different rulers over the centuries as the Antichrist, ranging from Nero to popes to whoever is the latest president. All have proven to be wrong.
We have also proposed countless theories over the Mark of the Beast. All of these have been wrong too.
It’s best not to speculate.
The Antichrist is assisted by the False Prophet, the leader of a false world-religion (Revelation 13:15). The False Prophet demands the worship of the Antichrist.
The political, moral, and military conflict brought on by the Antichrist in the Tribulation period boils over, bringing on the mother of all wars.
For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. . . . And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon. (Revelation 16:14, 16)
The greatest world war earth has ever known will break out, the Battle of Armageddon. It will be history’s worst bloodbath (Revelation 14:20).
The Battle of Armageddon is earth’s last attempt to throw off the reign of Jesus Christ, using military power to destroy Israel once for all, and to install the reign of the devil and his surrogates.
1 Shortly before this book went to press, the Evangelical Free Church of America changed their position on a premillennial return of Christ. Their statement removed the word premillennial and substituted the word glorious. It is easy enough to find their complete rationale online, though the main one is to appeal to a broader swath of evangelical leaders. The Grace Pathway advocates a premillennial position, and does so with love and respect for other positions.
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