18. The Second Coming of Christ

To correctly understand the Second Coming of Christ, we have to clearly discern its two phases, i.e. the return of Christ for His saints (i.e. all born-again believers) and His coming with His saints. During the first phase the coming of the heavenly Bridegroom will be unexpected, like a thief in the night. He will meet His bride in the air and quickly take her away to heavenly places (John 14:2-3; 1 Thess. 4:16-17). All true Christians will be raptured, or caught away swiftly, to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:17). During the second phase, His appearance will be public and every eye will see Him (Rev. 1:7). He will be accompanied by His bride, as well as a heavenly army, and will set foot upon the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4-5; Rev. 19:11-15).

Glorification and catching up

The glorification of Christians will begin at the moment when the trumpet is sounded, the deceased saints raised from the dead in incorruptible bodies, and the living saints transformed in an instant to receive their glorified bodies (1 Cor. 15:51-53). When that happens, we will have immortal, glorified bodies like that of Christ (1 John 3:2), but He will be far superior to us as He is the Head of the church (Eph. 5:23). That will happen in the twinkling of an eye as we enter a new dimension of existence (Phil. 3:20-21).

Immediately after the deceased believers have been raised and they, with the living believers, have been clothed with glorified bodies, Christ will take them all up to heaven to be ever with Him (1 Thess. 4:14-17). Note that this meeting will take place in the air and involves only born-again Christians. The Lord Jesus does not set foot on the Mount of Olives and reveal Himself to the world at this stage, but returns immediately with His bride to His Fatherís house in heaven. The word caught up, that is used by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (harpazo in Greek), clearly means to be raptured or snatched away rapidly.

A concept which is closely related to the rapture, is that of the first resurrection. At this event, the Lord Jesus will come to raise only born-again believers; this is why Paul says that ďthe dead in Christ shall rise firstĒ (1 Thess. 4:16). Nothing whatsoever is said here about the resurrection of the unbelieving, unjust dead. Since a first resurrection also implies a second, and since we know that the just as well as the unjust will be raised (Acts 24:15), it follows that the unjust dead will be raised at a later resurrection. Revelation 20 says that a thousand years will separate the two resurrections. John refers to all the saints who will be raised in the first resurrection to reign as kings with Christ during the millennium (Rev. 20:4-6).

Escape

In the light of the circumstances which will prevail on earth, the rapture will offer Christians an escape from the threatening judgements. As the moment of the rapture nears, it will be a dark time of massive spiritual deception. Evangelical Christians will be declared unchristian, unloving and judgmental, and will be despised. They will be regarded as prophets of doom because they proclaim the imminent judgements of God which will fall upon the world during the great tribulation. They will also be regarded as disloyal to the Christian cause because of their unwillingness to join the ecumenical movement and accept the unitary reforms of the New Age Movement. As the time for the revelation of the Antichrist approaches, true Christians will be subjected to immense pressure, intimidation and threats. However, they should take courage in the light of the promise that the truly born-again children of God will escape the coming tribulation period (Luke 21:36; According to Rev. 3: 10, we will be kept from the hour of tribulation).

The Lord clearly offers us escape from the coming judgements upon the world. The tribulation period will definitely be a time of divine judgement. When the powers of heaven are shaken and peopleís hearts fail the from fear and the expectation of even greater disasters they will become panic-stricken, flee to the mountains and call on the mountains and rocks to hide them from the face of the Lamb (Rev. 6:15-17). If we watch and pray, we will be spiritually worthy to escape these judgements (Luke 21:34-36). Never in history has God ever poured out His judgements upon believers.

Although the rapture is a unique occurrence, there are examples in the Bible of times when God poured out His wrath, but provided an escape route for true believers since they were not the objects of His wrath (Gen. 6:5-14). Shortly before the outpouring of Godís judgements in the time of Noah, eight believers escaped the disaster area by entering the ark. God Himself closed the door behind them before He judged the wicked who despised Godís way of escape (Gen. 7:16-23).

In the time of Lot another rescue operation took place. The night before Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, Lot and his family received an urgent command to depart from the area marked out for judgement. The angels urged Lot to leave Sodom and helped him and his family to do so before they destroyed it. Shortly after their departure, fire and brimstone rained down on the ungodly (Gen. 19:13-17; 22-25). The Lord Jesus says that there is a clear correlation between these historical events and Godís end-time dealing with believers and unbelievers (Luke 17:26-30; also read Genesis chaps. 6, 7 & 19).

After Christ has secretly caught up His church He will pour out judgements upon a godless world from His throne in heaven (Rev. 6Ė19). The glorified church will then be assembled around His throne (Rev. 4:4; 5:9-10). At the end of the seven years of tribulation Jesus Christ will return to earth and be revealed to all people (Zech. 14:4-5; Col. 3:4). That will be the second phase of His coming.

His public appearance

On the last day of the great tribulation, during the battle of Armageddon, Jesus Christ will appear on a white horse, followed by a heavenly army of angels and all His saints, to engage in a short but decisive battle with His enemies (Rev. 19:11-21). The Second Coming of Jesus, which is described in Revelation 19, will be like lightning that will be seen from everywhere. But physically He will return to the city of Jerusalem (Zech. 14:4-5). The darkness of Godís judgements will descend upon the world. The Lord will smite His enemies with the sword that proceeds from His mouth. He will only utter a word, which will lead to their destruction. In the ensuing confusion they will kill one another (Zech. 14:2-4; 12-13). Then will they experience that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31; Isa. 13:9-12; Joel 2:2,11; 3:2), since they were foolish enough to declare war against Him (Rev. 19:19).

In Revelation 19:20 it is clearly stated that the Antichrist and the false prophet will both be captured on the day of the Second Coming of Jesus and cast alive into the lake of fire. The place where this confrontation and judgement will occur is most significant from a biblical perspective. According to Joel 3 it will be in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, which is the Kidron Valley between the Mount of Olives and the Temple Mount. Jehoshaphat means The Lord judges. After this, Satan will be bound in a pit for 1000 years (Rev. 20:1-3). The description of the binding of the devil is an extension of the scenario in Revelation 19 and is therefore a direct result of the return of Jesus. It follows immediately after the final judgement of the Antichrist and the false prophet, and is therefore not an event that can be extracted from this context and applied to the present dispensation of the church.

The wedding feast of the Lamb

After the return of Christ, the wedding feast of the Lamb will be celebrated on earth (Rev. 19:7-9). During His Second Coming the Lord Jesus will have been united with His bride that was raptured to heaven seven years earlier. The consummation of the marriage in heaven will then be complete but the marriage feast will still have to be celebrated. The saved remnant of Israel will be among the guests at this glorious occasion and their joy will be complete. A saved remnant of the nations will also participate in the celebrations.

With His Second Coming, the bride will share in the crowning moment of the great triumph of Christ when He returns to the earth as King of kings and Lord of lords to crush the power of all His enemies, and establish a government of righteousness in which His servants will reign with Him. He will restore the throne of David in Jerusalem (Acts 15:16-17) and institute His thousand-year reign of peace. Those who will be proved to have been good and faithful servants of the Lord during the present dispensation will be rewarded by assigning special positions to them in His kingdom (Luke 19:17,19).

We now have the opportunity to dedicate ourselves to the Lord and work for Him (2 Cor. 5:10). At His Second Coming He will reward us for these works of faith and appoint us to be co-rulers with Him in His millennial reign. He expects of His servants not to be idle in His kingdom or to appear before Him empty-handed (Luke 19:20-23), but to be found faithful so He can further use them in His kingdom by entrusting them with greater responsibilities.

Personal commitment

My great purpose in life is to do the works of Him who has sent me while it is still day, as the night of Godís judgements is coming when no one can work. May the Lord Jesus find me busy executing His commands when He comes to take us away to our heavenly home. When we are in Christ we do not have to fear the judgements, as there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:1). We shall not come into judgement since we have passed from death into life (John 5:24). What a wonderful day to look forward to, when Jesus Christ is coming for His bride so that she can escape all the judgements that will come upon the sinners, and to stand before the Son of Man. Indescribable joy will be experienced by her Ė eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Cor. 2:9).

Questions

1.    Name the two phases of the coming of Christ.

2.    Describe the rapture as a form of escape.

3.    Where will Christ appear during His public coming?

4.    What will He do after that?

5.    Who will accompany the Lord Jesus at His Second Coming?