[Jesus] was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. [The disciples] were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9–11, NIV 1984).
My Musings – While we know for certain that Christ will someday return (He said He would), the manner of His return (“In the same way you have seen Him go.”) has been the subject of great debate.
Many believe that while there may be many signs indicating the end is approaching, few or none of the events prophesied in the book of Revelation need to occur before Jesus returns “like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2) for His saints. In this view, it will take place “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52) and that it could occur at any time. In 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 Paul used the pronoun we, (“we who are still alive and are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air”) suggesting that even he may have expected to be alive when the Lord returned. This sudden yet somewhat secretive return of Christ is what is most often referred to as the Rapture.
Others believe that Christ’s return will be more dramatic. In their view, certain signs and events must precede Christ’s physical return to the earth (Matthew 24:33). This return will be considerably different than the “like a thief” viewpoint described above. On the contrary, as “lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:27), such that “every eye will see Him” (Revelation 1:7). This dramatic and visible return of Christ is referred to as the Parousia.
This Parousia is a transliteration (the spelling of a word in one language with the alphabet of another language) of a Greek word that means presence, arrival, appearance, or coming. The word is employed most frequently with reference to Christ (Matthew 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8. As such, the Parousia has come to denote the visible Second Coming of Christ at the end of the age.
Of course, these two views are not necessarily mutually exclusive (not either or). In fact, it appears from the descriptions above that the Rapture (no signs appear to precede it and it is likely not visible) and the Parousia (signs clearly precede it and it is openly visible) must be two separate events. They would have to be for them both to be true (yes to both). If the Rapture and the Parousia are two separate events, the obvious question then becomes how long is the interval that separates them? Closely related to this interval is the Tribulation, and how it relates to the Rapture and the Parousia. There are four main viewpoints on how the interval between the Rapture and the Parousia relates to the Tribulation.
First is the Pretribulation View. In this view, Christ will rapture (carry away) the Church before any part of the Tribulation begins (Daniel. 9:24–27; Matthew 24:3–28; Revelation. 11:2; 12:14). Upon Christ’s coming in the air, which is seen as distinct from and preceding His coming to the earth, believers will be “caught up together … in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). In this view believers are delivered from “the coming wrath” (1 Thessalonians 1:10) and “the hour of trial” (Revelation 3:10) by being taken out of the world before the Tribulation.
Second is the Midtribulation View. This view also sees the Rapture as a distinct event that precedes Christ’s second coming. It differs from the Pretribulation view in that believers go through the first half of the Tribulation but are delivered from the last half (often referred to as the Great Tribulation – Matthew 24:15–28; Revelation 16–18).
Third is the Posttribulation View. – In this view, the Rapture and the Parousia occur at virtually the same time or in fairly rapid succession after the Tribulation. Therefore, the Church remains on earth during that the “time of trouble for Jacob” (Jeremiah. 30:7). Unlike the rest of the world, however, believers will largely be protected during (“saved out of it”) the devastating outpouring of God’s wrath and judgment, “for God did not appoint us to suffer wrath” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
Last is the Pre-Wrath Rapture View – This view of the Rapture argues that the first three-fourths of the Tribulation is the wrath of man and the wrath of Satan, and not the wrath of God. Proponents of this view argue that the Church will suffer through the first three-quarters of the Tribulation since the Church is promised protection only from the wrath of God. Those who espouse this viewpoint of the Rapture’s timing believe that the Seal Judgments are the wrath of man and Satan and that they continue throughout the first half of the Tribulation and into the second half, right up to the three-quarters point, or shortly thereafter. They place the Trumpet Judgments in the last quarter of the Tribulation and the Bowl Judgments in the first 30 days following the end of Daniel’s 70th Week of Years. This is a fairly recent interpretation of the Rapture that was developed in the 1970’s and popularized in the 1990’s.
|Contrast Rapture and Parousia|
|The Rapture||The Parousia|
|Imminent. No signs precede this event.||Not imminent. Preceded by numerous and definite prophesied “signs”.|
|Entails removal of all believers, both dead and living, who are joined together instantly.||Entails the appearance of the Son of God.|
|Saints are “caught up” in the air, in the clouds.||Christ returns to the earth.|
|Christ comes to claim His bride.||Christ returns with His bride.|
|Christ returns with His bride to heaven. The Tribulation follows.||Christ remains on earth and sets up His Kingdom. The Millennium follows.|
|When the saints are removed, only unbelievers are left to begin the Tribulation period.||When the unbelievers are removed, only believers are left to begin the Millennial Kingdom.|
|Brings message of comfort and hope.||Brings message of judgment.|
|Related to God’s program for the Church.||Related to God’s program for Israel and the world.|
|A mystery. Never revealed in the Old Testament.||No Mystery. Clearly revealed and predicted in both Testaments.|
|Immediately following, believers are judged (Judgment Seat of Christ).||Immediately following, Israel and Gentiles are judged (Great White Throne Judgment).|
|Creation unchanged. Earthly curse remains.||Creation changed. Earthly curse is lifted.|
|Sin runs rampant and virtually unchecked after this event, as Satan holds full sway.||Sin is judged. Satan is removed, and righteousness fills the earth after this event.|
|Occurs before the day of wrath.||Occurs after the day of wrath. The entire world will see.|
|Sudden. Instantly occurs, leaving the earth in confusion and chaos. Literally involves believers only.||Comes as a result of worldwide military conflict, occurring at end of Armageddon campaign. Literally involves the entire world.|
|Expectation of the Church: “The Lord is near.”||Expectation of believing Israel: “The Kingdom is at hand.”|
|Scripture References on the Rapture and the Parousia|
|The Rapture||The Parousia|
|Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:1, 2) |
For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:9)
“Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.” (Revelation 16:15)
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. (Matthew 24:36, 39-41)
If this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. (2 Peter 2:9)
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3)
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52)
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
|For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:27) |
“You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:64)
This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9)
Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:7)
On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. (Zechariah 14:4)
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:31, 32)
At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:27, 28)
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war.His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. (Revelation 19:11-15)
My Advice – It is very easy to get caught up in one of the four views and the timing of the Rapture and the Parousia. But let’s not lose sight of the thing that is certain – Jesus is coming back!
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 179). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 1616). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
Schemm, P. (2003). Rapture. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1366). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
The Pre-Wrath Rapture
3 thoughts on “The Return”
Thanks again for a great post – I hold an open heart on this subject I have no dogmatic view – thanks for showing the alternatives.
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Previous Anon comment from seeds in motion…
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Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!
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