World Crisis And The Second Coming of Christ
One of the most exciting studies in Scripture is the Second Coming of Christ. This topic is the most written-about doctrine in the Scriptures. In fact, there are twice as many verses on the Second Coming as on salvation; eight times as many verses on the return of the Messiah as on the birth of the Messiah; one out of every twenty-five verses in the New Testament makes reference to it; and twenty-three of the twenty-seven New Testament books refer to it.
Since the Scriptures are replete with the doctrine of the Second Coming, it is only logical to reason that there must be two appearances of the Messiah Jesus.
During His first advent, the Lord Jesus accomplished redemption through His death, burial and resurrection (Rom. 10:9-13; 1 Cor. 15:1-4).
The second appearance will reveal Christ as the roaring Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who will sit on His father’s throne (David) reigning over the nation of Israel and the entire earth as King of kings and Lord of lords (Zech. 14; Rev. 19; Isa. 9:6, 7; Jer. 23:5,6).
The scriptural references concerning this great doctrine lead one to conclude that there are a number of divinely intended purposes for the Second Coming of Christ. Among them, He is . . .
- To consummate our eternal salvation (Heb. 9:28).
- To gather His elect (the Jew) back to the Promised Land (Mt. 24:31;Jer. 23:5-8).
- To prepare the way for the Tribulation Period, which in turn will bring Israel to her national day of repentance (Jer. 30:7; Zech. 12, 13).
- To remove the blight of sin upon the earth and enable God’s blessings to become manifest (Rom. 8:19-22; Isa. 65; Isa. 35:1-2, 6-7).
- To judge the Gentile nations (Mt. 25:31-46).
- To “rapture” the Church (Jn.14:1-3; 1 Thess. ,4:13-18).
- To fulfill all the promises made to the nation of Israel (Jer. 30:17-24; Isa. 9:6, 7; Jer. 23:5, 6; Isa. 59:20 ff; 61:2, Ezek. 37:21-28; Joel 2:28-3:21; Zech. 14).
- To deliver Israel physically from her worldwide enemies (Zech. 14; Rev. 19).
- To cast into the eternal Lake of Fire the Antichrist and the False Prophet (Rev. 19:20).
- To bind Satan in the bottomless pit for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:2, 3) and ultimately cast him into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:10).
The Complexity of The Second Coming
The first coming of Jesus Christ is a phrase which refers to the total ministry of Jesus upon the face of the earth; that is, it begins with His birth and ends with His death, burial and resurrection. These events are separated by more than thirty years. The time span between the Lord’s birth and death and the fact that they are two distinct events does not alter the fact that it was all part of the First Advent of Christ. The Second Coming of Jesus is similar in that there will be two major, distinct phases separated by a period of time . . . approximately seven years.
The first phase of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is known as the Rapture of the Church. The second phase is known as the literal return of Christ to the earth.
Between these two major, distinct events is a seven-year period known as the Tribulation, or Daniel’s 70th Week (Dan. 9:24-27).
It cannot be overemphasized too strongly that there is only one return of Christ. However, that second appearance manifests itself in two separate and distinct movements, separated by seven years.
Premillennial Return of The Lord…His “Touch Down”
The Second Coming of Christ will take place prior to the 1,000-year kingdom upon the earth. Jesus’ return to the earth will both consummate the seven-year Tribulation Period and inaugurate the Millennial Kingdom. In Revelation, chapter 19, a very vivid portrait of Jesus returning as King of Kings and Lord of Lords is portrayed. He returns out of heaven, sitting upon a white horse, with the saints (Bride-Church) accompanying Him. At that time He literally destroys the armies of the nations of the world who will be satanically wooed to the land of Israel for the purpose of destroying God’s people, Israel, and ultimately to do battle with Jesus himself (Zech. 12-14; Rev. 16, 19,20).
This will bring to culmination that which is known as the Battle of Armageddon . It is at this time, or shortly hereafter, that the Lord begins His Millennial Kingdom.
Pretribulation Rapture Of The Church…Our “Lift Off.”
Backtracking approximately seven years from Jesus “touchdown” upon the earth, the Church will have been physically “raptured”; that is, “caught up” into the clouds to be with the Lord forever (1 Thess. 4: 13-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-53; Jn. 14:1-3).
This is Phase I of the Second Coming of the Lord. Some have made reference to this “Lift Off” as an escape hatch for the Church invented by the pre-tribulational rapturist. I personally find nothing wrong with this concept . . . for it is biblical (Rev. 3:10; 1 Thess. 1:10). Additionally, it is very comforting to know that we who belong to Christ in this Church Age (whether Jew or Gentile) will indeed be spared the seven-year Tribulation . . . the time when the wrath of God, which has been stored up over the past millennia, will now be poured out upon the earth. At the same time Satan will be confined to the earth and performing his worst feats in all of history (Rev. 6-19).
Some exciting truths concerning the Rapture include such events as:
The dead in Christ bodily and physically raised to be reunited with their soul (1 Thess. 4:13-18; I Cor. 15:51-53).
The bodily translation of those who are physically alive to the rendezvous point with Jesus in the clouds (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-53).
Leaving behind our “sin nature” and the receiving of a glorified body as Jesus himself has (Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Jn. 3:2).
This major event in the prophetic program of God brings to culmination the history of the Church here upon the earth.
The Tribulation, the 70th Week of Daniel, follows closely on the heels of the Rapture. How much time elapses between the Rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation Period is ambiguous — but it does seem that it is a short period of time between the two events. We do know, however, that at the signing of the covenant (peace treaty) between the Antichrist and the nation of Israel for seven years the Tribulation Period will be initiated (Dan. 9:24-27). Most of the Book of Revelation (chapters 6-19), as well as many other Old and New Testament passages, makes direct reference to this period of time.
The Judgment Seat of Christ
While there are several times that men come before the judicial bench of God, there are two major judgments that are most important. One of these is known as the “Great White Throne Judgment” . This judgmental time concerns all unsaved throughout history, and will take place at the end of the Millennium. Approximately 1,000 years before this tribunal is the “Judgment of Christ”. This is one of the two major events that will take place for the Church during the Tribulation Period. This event occurs soon after the Rapture (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10-12). At the beginning of the Eternal State, the believer comes face to face with Jesus, who is God, and is judged by Him. The Apostle Paul, by the Spirit of God, has made it radiantly clear that we will not be judged for salvation, but rather as children of God, based upon how we served Him and lived our lives once we became His true child (1 Cor. 3:9-15; Eph. 2:8-10).
The Wedding Feast
The second episode that directly involves the Church during the Tribulation Period is referred to as the marriage feast or the wedding of the Lamb (Jesus, the Bridegroom) to the Bride (the Church) (Revelation 19:7-9 cf John 3:29; Ephesians 5:22-32).
While there is not much detail given concerning this momentous occasion — what we do have should thrill the heart of the Christian. At this particular event there will be the uniting of Jesus, the Bridegroom, to the Church, the Bride. During this wedding feast there will be a host of others who do not specifically comprise the Church, but who will be invited guests to witness this glorious occasion. We do not understand all the ramifications concerning this marriage, but certainly it will be one of the highlights to be remembered throughout all eternity.
The Time Of His Return
In Matthew 24, Jesus enumerates many signs that must occur before His return to the earth to establish the long-awaited Kingdom promised to Israel. These were given in answer to the disciples questions in the early part of the chapter, “. . . what shall be the sign of thy coming, and the end of the age?” It is essential to interpret this passage in light of the historical context of the day. The disciples both being Jewish and knowing nothing about the existence of the Church were simply making reference to the Return of Jesus to sit on His rightful throne.
In verse 31 and following, Jesus informs His disciples and actually instructs the believers throughout the age how to recognize the time of His return.
He parallels His return in power and glory to that of the blossoming of the fig tree. The axiomatic truth of the summer being close at hand once the leaves appear is the same basic principle involved in the closeness of His return to the earth soon after the signs of the Tribulation are evident. In other words, those who are alive in the Tribulation Period are the only ones who can possibly know the fact of Jesus soon return to earth, for they alone are the generation who will actually see the signs taking place during the Tribulation Period.
While the return of Jesus to the earth is preceded by definite signs and hence can be measured in time to a certain degree — this could not be said about the Rapture.
The Rapture is both signless and imminent; that is, there are no events that must precede the “lift off “. . .nor have there ever been.
It is crucial then to recognize that the Rapture can happen at any time . . . there is nothing that must be fulfilled first . . . it is imminent. One thing could be said, however, is that we are much closer to the Rapture since we are almost 2,000 years further along in history than our counterparts in the first century.
While it is true that one can never figure out the time of the Return of Jesus for His Church and should not try, it is appropriate for us to pay attention to the events of the day around us. Part of the “Blessed Hope” is the belief that we will be caught up with Christ forevermore. It is possible to consider as never before in history, that we may be close to the time in history revealed in the Scriptures prior to Jesus’ return to the earth. BUT we must make sure that we do not catch Rapture Fever . It is much too easy to be raptured with the Rapture and thus to forget what we as Christians are to be doing .while awaiting eagerly His wonderful Return.