Do You Confuse the Rapture with Jesus' Second Coming?March 1, 2020 Save Article
There are those Christians who understand the Rapture and look for that day when Jesus comes for His saints who tend to get the Rapture and the Second Coming confused. Sometimes people will say “the Rapture” when they mean “the Second Coming.” More often, people will say “when Jesus comes” or “the Second Coming” when they actually are talking about the Rapture.
Some Christians wonder how the Rapture and the Second Coming are related. “Are they one and the same event? Do they occur at the same time? There’s only one Second Coming, right?” Adrian Rogers answers those Rapture and Second Coming questions in this message. Our purpose in this study will be to focus on what occurs in these two separate events so believers won’t be confused and can explain it to others.
The Apostle Paul was faced with an issue in the church he founded in Thessalonica. Many believers were distressed, thinking their loved ones who had already died would miss the Rapture, and all that follows it. There was great concern within the church. Paul addresses the issue in his second letter to the Thessalonians.
Have your Bible open. Our study will be in the books of Revelation, Matthew, Acts, 2 Thessalonians, and 1 Corinthians as we tie all this together. By the time you finish this study, many questions will be answered.
Jesus is coming again “soon and very soon.” We can’t afford to be ignorant about it or misinformed. We need to be telling our loved ones that His coming could occur at any time. At this moment we’re living in that time between His incarnation—first coming—and His coronation—His Second Coming, where He will be crowned King and will reign forever.
Revelation gives a dramatic description of Jesus’ Second Coming to earth. The Apostle John describes it in the vision God gave him. Here is what he saw:
Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:11-16)
Now, what John describes here is the Second Coming, not the Rapture. When Jesus returns to Earth the second time, it won’t be to a humble stable. And it won’t be under wraps like “a thief in the night,” as at the Rapture.
When He returns in the Second Coming, Jesus is coming visibly. Some people try to dispose of the reality of the Second Coming by saying either that it already happened in past history, or they spiritualize it by saying the Second Coming is just when Jesus comes and carries us to Heaven when we die. Nonsense. We do go to meet Him when we die, but that’s not His Second Coming.
Let’s start with what the angel said to His disciples at the moment Jesus left Earth and ascended to Heaven. Turn to Acts 1:6-12. You’ll see His ascension in context.
The disciples were hoping, now that Jesus had been raised to life again, perhaps He would toss those Roman occupiers out and give Israel its kingdom back. But that had never been His purpose for coming in the first place.
Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey.
- What the angels say here is of great importance. What did they tell the disciples about Jesus’ Second Coming—His return to Earth. In what manner will He return? Describe it.
When you look at John’s description of His return in Revelation 19, you know it’s an earth-shaking event that didn’t happen in past history. Add to that what John saw in Revelation 1:7, “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.”
- Is this a private event or a public one? Who among the earth’s population will see Him?
Different cults try to tell us that various events in the first century were what John was talking about and much of Revelation has already occurred. Don’t believe it. When He comes, people of all times, even those 2,000 years ago, will see Him. Jesus Christ is coming back visibly in power, great glory, and majesty.
At this point, you may be asking, “Wait. What about the Rapture? Revelation 1:7 sounds like that could be the Rapture, but it can’t be, because every eye will see Him. I’m confused.”
No wonder you’re confused. In one place the Bible says Jesus comes quickly like a thief in the night and His coming is mysterious. Now we see this passage showing Him coming in power and great glory. Which is true? Is He coming in mystery or is He coming in majesty? Is He coming secretly as a thief in the night, or is He is coming in power and great glory?
There’s something important to understand about His Second Coming, or you will be completely confused:
The Second Coming of Christ has two phases:
- Phase One is the Rapture when Jesus catches away all believers to Heaven.
- Phase Two is His Revelation—a public event when He returns to earth in power and great glory.
We’re going to consider both the Rapture and the Second Coming. comparing and contrasting them, because they are two distinct, separate events occurring years apart.
The Rapture—Phase One
The event when Jesus comes for His bride—the Church. He comes like a bridegroom to take His church out—we’re caught up to meet Him in the air. “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him…” (2 Thessalonians 2:1).
After complimenting them for their growing faith and love and their steadfastness in the face of hardship, Paul begins to address their concerns about the coming of the Lord, and under that heading, he narrows it down to “our gathering together to Him.”
- Which phase of Jesus’ Second Coming is Paul focusing on? What does “gathered to Him” mean, in a practical sense?
In 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, Paul gives another description of the same event: "Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
When the Bible uses the word mystery, it means “a truth previously unknown, but now revealed.” We don’t find the Rapture in the Old Testament. It was revealed in the New Testament. The Rapture is a concept the Old Testament prophets did not know about.
Turn to Matthew 25:1-13 and read this parable of 10 bridesmaids invited to a wedding. Their chief responsibility was to be prepared and ready for His coming at any moment.
Then look at 1 Thessalonians 5:2, “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.”
- How does Matthew 25:13 describe the Bridegroom’s coming? How does 1 Thessalonians 5:2 describe Jesus’ coming?
So in Phase One, Jesus comes for His church, gathering the saved to Himself. We’ll be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. His feet never touch the earth. At the Rapture, He’s in Heaven, God gives the signal, and He appears to retrieve His Church from this world.
The Revelation—Phase Two (His Second Coming)
In a separate event, Jesus comes sovereignly as King, returning to earth with His Church—a cataclysmic moment, a bolt of out of the blue like lightning.
Seen or Secretive?
"For as the lightning comes from out the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of man be" (Matthew 24:27). Every eye will see Him in great power and glory as He comes to take over “in that Day, to be glorified in His saints” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, Matthew 24:27, Revelation 1:7. This is totally different from the Rapture, when He comes “like a thief in the night.”
Touches Earth or Remains Above It?
At the Rapture, He does not come to earth but remains above, where we meet Him in the air. At the Second Coming, His feet first touch the earth at the Mount of Olives—the same place where He ascended, exactly as the angels said. The place from which he left is the place He touches down.
By Himself or With a Crowd?
At the Rapture, no one comes with the Lord Jesus from Heaven to meet His saints. At the Second Coming, “the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses” (Revelation 19:14), the saints from all the ages, the bride of Christ, come with Him.
These two descriptions of the return of Jesus Christ would be contradictory if we didn’t understand that His coming is in two phases:
- Coming for His church (the Rapture), we’re taken out before the Tribulation.
- Coming back with His Church at the end of the Tribulation.
- Now that you have these contrasts in hand, jot a list of the differences between the two events, the Rapture and the Second Coming:
But what about those who say the word “Rapture” isn’t in the Bible?
Yes, it is. Just not spelled “r-a-p-t-u-r-e,” because “rapture” is the English word for the Greek word Paul used to describe the catching away of the church. Harpazo in Greek means “to catch up, snatch away.” Paul wrote in Greek, not English. He used harpazo to describe the catching away (rapture) of the church. Rapturo is the Latin word used to translate harpazo, both of which mean “to catch up, to snatch away.”
Read Paul’s reassuring words in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 where Paul he comforts the Thessalonians, laying out the timeline of the Rapture:
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep [the saved who have already died]. 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 [harpazo, rapturo] caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, harpazo is used a total of 13 times in the New Testament:
- Matthew 11:12: "suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force…"
- Matthew 13:19: "the wicked one catcheth away that which was sown in his heart..."
- John 6:15: "they would come and take Him by force, to make Him."
- John 10:12: "and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the…"
- John 10:28: "they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them…"
- John 10:29: "and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand…"
- Acts 8:39: "water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch…"
- Acts 23:10: "the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them…"
- 2 Corinthians 12:2: "I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such a one caught up to the third…"
- 2 Corinthians 12:4: "How that he was caught up into paradise…"
- 1 Thessalonians 4:17: "we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together…"
- Jude 1:23: "save with fear, pulling them out of the fire…"
- Revelation 12:5: "and her child was caught up unto God…"
We see here the full meaning of harpazo (Latin: rapturo, English: rapture): to be caught away speedily, taken away by force, carried away—transported—moved from one place to a new place, rescued—delivered from danger. At the end of the Church Age, the Church is caught up.
But doesn’t the Church go through the Tribulation?
No. This idea does not logically pan out for several reasons.
First, Jesus said no one would know the day or the hour when He would return to earth, coming with His saints (Revelation 19:11), His feet touching down first on the Mount of Olives. If the church were to go through the Tribulation and we’re here on earth, then when we see the Antichrist desecrate the temple, which the Bible clearly says happens exactly 3½ years into the 7-year Tribulation, then we could just start counting the days until Jesus’ return. The Bible teaches we’re going to be caught up beforehand in the Rapture, marking the end of the Church Age, to experience the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:9-17) and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7).
Second, the Tribulation is the “Day of God’s wrath,” poured out on an unbelieving world that has rejected the Lord Jesus Christ, mocked Him, persecuted and killed untold millions of innocents. The Bible teaches that God does not pour out His wrath upon his Bride, the Church:
For God did not appoint us to wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11)
If we’re going through seven years of horrific Tribulation, there’s no comfort in that for us! The wrath of God is for the unsaved.
Third, read what the Lord Jesus said in Revelation 3:10 to the first-century church in Philadelphia, "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth."
He says, “I’m going to keep you from this terrible time.” God is not going to beat up His bride with His wrath. Now He will chastise us (“in this world we will have tribulation”), but His wrath is reserved for the wicked, after the bride of Christ, the church, is taken out in the Rapture.
Fourth, the Church will be busy—in Heaven. While the earth below experiences the Tribulation, we will stand before our Lord at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Then we’ll all celebrate at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb before returning with Him when He comes with power and great glory at His Second Coming (Revelation 19:11-16).
That’s the reason we’re not waiting on any signs to be fulfilled. Jesus may come for His Bride, the Church, at any moment. If you don’t understand that, you’re going to think we have to go through the Tribulation before Jesus comes. No, friend. If you don’t learn anything else from this study on the book of Revelation, learn this: Jesus may come at any moment.
I want you to hear what the greatest prophecy preacher of all time, Jesus Himself, had to say about His coming, the signs of the times and the end of the age. Turn to Matthew 24. His disciples had asked Him some questions, and Jesus was seated on the Mount of Olives when He answered them. This chapter is known among Bible scholars as “The Olivet Discourse.”
Here are four important truths to remember, to apply to both Phase One and Phase Two of Jesus’ Second Coming.
Don’t let anybody set a date for you.
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Date-setters must think they are smarter than any angel.
It will be a normal day, business as usual.
For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. (Matthew 24:38-41)
No one knows the day.
“Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42).
Be ready—it’s a time you don’t expect.
“Therefore, you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44). Jesus Christ is coming suddenly at any moment. We’re not waiting for the Tribulation; we’re looking for Jesus.
What is the hope of this world? Is there hope?
Science is not the answer.
Science has made the world a neighborhood but not a brotherhood. The late Dr. Vance Havner used to say, “Civilization is like a chimpanzee with a blowtorch in a room full of dynamite.” Scientifically we’re in graduate school, morally we’re in kindergarten.
Politics is not the answer.
No politician will be able to deliver us. We win the wars and lose the peace, and these days it seems like we can’t even win the wars.
Social reform is not the answer.
All social reform does, if it prevails at all, is to make the world a better place to go to hell from. I’m not in the business of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Social reform will not save this world.
I’m not a pessimist; I’m a glowing optimist because I know the only One who can save this world. The answer, beyond any shadow of a doubt, is for our Lord Jesus Christ to come again.
God is a God of love, and if you want to be saved, you can be saved. If you want mercy, you may have it. But you must have it now, on this side of the grave, on this side of the Rapture. If you refuse the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior; if you trample under your feet His precious blood; if you spurn the Spirit of grace, if you turn from His hand, reaching out to you, as sure as my name is Adrian Rogers, there is coming a time when you will face the wrath of God.
It doesn’t have to end that way for you. Come to Jesus while there is still time. Go to Discover Jesus to learn more.
Learn more about how to study the Bible with the LWF Bible Study Guide.