By Terry James
Most all people in western culture and society who are mature, so far as age is concerned, have heard of the term “the second coming.” Few, however, understand the term. Even fewer who think they have understanding have it right in their perception of that world-transforming future event. The accuracy of their understanding depends upon adhering to what God’s Word, the Bible, says on the awe-inspiring topic. Interpretation must be undertaken from the viewpoint that God is speaking to His creation–man—in a literal sense. That is, His foretelling must be taken as literal, not as being spiritualized, symbolic, allegorical, or as things that have already occurred in any way, shape, or form.
The second coming, or second advent, as it is also called, is a literal future event that will take place at a literal moment in literal time, by the literal King of all kings and Lord of all lords. It is the coming back to earth of Jesus Christ to put down all rebellion, to restore Planet Earth, and to rule and reign from His throne atop Zion for literally 1,000 years.
With that as an admittedly simplistic frame of reference, we will move more deeply into the subject through a stupendous body of prophecies yet to unfold that will profoundly affect every human being who has ever been conceived within the long history of this now fallen sphere. We will look particularly at the prospect of Christ’s return as it affects each and every person presently alive. To be “second coming ready” is the most important preparation any individual can make. This is because being “second coming ready” means a person’s soul, his or her eternal being, is in God’s family forever.
Dissecting the Second Coming
Comprehending the second coming of Jesus Christ to restore all things to conformity with God’s will requires understanding that God deals with His creation called man in dispensations. He has done so through covenants made with man throughout human history. The study of dispensationalism becomes quite involved, and this article, because of length parameters, doesn’t allow for an in-depth examination of that. We will look at the dispensation in which we live today–the age of grace, also called the church age, and the dispensation that will follow this one–the tribulation. Even so, we have space only to delve briefly into these as they reflect upon our topic, what is involved in being “second coming ready.”
One Second Coming; Two Phases
The return of Christ makes no sense if viewed only as a one-phased event. This is because the Scriptures present conflict and confusion, if trying to make the second coming simply the Lord breaking through the black clouds of Revelation 19:11, then defeating all rebels and moving to Jerusalem to set up His millennial kingdom.
Some Scriptures reveal that no one can know the exact day or hour of Christ’s return. Others tell that the exact number of days to His return to earth can be precisely calculated. Matthew 25:13 says Jesus will return at an unknown time, while Revelation 12:6 indicates that the Jews will have to wait on the Lord 1,260 days, starting when the Antichrist stands in the Temple of God and declares himself to be God. This takes place three and one-half years into the seven-year tribulation period.
Which is it? Can Christ’s time of return be known for sure, or not? God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). His Word is orderly, and always makes sense when proper context is applied and when the reader is faithful to seek out what it really says. It is vital, therefore, that Bible prophecy, as the Word of God in general, be studied thoroughly in total context. It can be hard work, but blesses the soul every time it is done. So, we see that the area dealing with knowing or not knowing the time of Christ’s coming back to earth presents what might be construed as contradiction. Bible prophecy seems to say different things about earth dwellers being aware of exactly when He is coming again. It is impossible to understand the apparent contradiction (which is not contradiction at all) without in-depth study on the matter. Such study, covered with prayer for understanding, reveals that Christ will return to Planet Earth in two distinct phases. Additionally, study brings realization that it is essential to understand that God is working within two prophetic programs: one involving the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the other involving His chosen people, the nation Israel. The two dovetail into the most glorious event in human history to occur since Christ’s first coming.
Phase 1: The Rapture
This event involves the church, all born-again believers in Jesus Christ for salvation. A person is born again (John 3:3) into the family of God by accepting that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. This is the “rock” upon which Jesus said He would build His Church (Matthew 16:18). All people who have been born since the church began have lived in the “church age” or “age of grace.” That is, all during this period of time, this dispensation, who accept Christ’s blood as atonement for sin are under the grace of God. These believers are recipients of reconciliation with God the Father, their sins forever removed from receiving His judgment.
Rapture of the church, as foretold by the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-55 will be the one atomos of time (faster than the eye can blink) when Jesus will call all believers of the church age to be with Him forever. This is the “mystery” Paul showed believers, revealing in full what Jesus meant when He said the following: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).
The prerequisite, then, for being rapture ready is to accept Christ as Savior. Paul tells us that ALL will be changed in that “twinkling of an eye.” Who is included in the “all” he wrote about? “All” was the pronoun he used to include every individual during the church age who will accept Christ for their personal salvation.
The rapture is the first of the two-phase second coming. Thus, those who are rapture ready are also second coming ready. “All,” not “some,” will go to be with the Lord when He calls, as He did to John in Revelation 4:1. Each believer is rapture ready in the sense that each will go to be with Jesus in that stupendous event. Each will be taken; none will be left behind.
However, not every Christian will be “ready” in another important sense. Those who have lived carnal lives–lives that are not walking in the will of God will lose rewards at the bema, or judgment seat of Christ. The believer must do his or her best to live the way God expects of His children while still in this mortal flesh. Those who do not won’t be kicked out of God’s family or be left behind to suffer His wrath (for we are not appointed to the wrath of God; see 1 Thessalonians 5:9). But, those who choose to live apart from the Father’s instructions will have disappointed their Lord, and at the bema judgment will see their carnal works burned in the holy fire that purges unrighteousness. Sinful acts, through commission or ommision, cannot enter God’s eternal kingdom.
The child of God should take this truth very seriously. How he or she attempts to walk righteously here on earth will determine his or her eternal service status when they look into their Lord’s omniscient eyes.
Phase 2: Second Advent
The physical touchdown of the Lord Jesus atop the Mount of Olives will take place at a minimum of seven years following the rapture of the church. This will be the second phase of Christ’s second coming. It will come at the end of the worst era of human history, the tribulation. The tribulation era will begin God’s dealing with His chosen people, Israel, in a supernatural way. He will, during this horrific time, purge, through the fiery crucible of Antichrist’s genocidal rage, a special remnant of the Jewish people. These will be His nation as head of all nations during the millennium, the 1,000-year era that will follow the tribulation. However, before the Jewish remnant will enjoy the millennial earth as the foremost nation, the time will be worse for the Jewish people than at any time during the many anti-Semite persecutions and diasporas (scatterings) through the ages.
Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet, said the following about that horrendous time: “Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it” (Jeremiah 30:7).
Hell on Earth
The Tribulation will produce an increasingly Hell-like planet, God’s direct judgments falling upon Antichrist and the rebellious earth-dwellers, the closer the time of Christ’s return to earth comes. Still, rather than repent of their horrendous sin against the Almighty, they will hide themselves in the caves and crannies of the mountains and shake their fists against Him.
Jesus himself said of this terrible time just before His return: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21).
Only the great mercy of God will keep some flesh from succumbing to the 21 judgments that will pour upon and smash into Planet Earth. While all armies of earth gather in the Middle East at Armageddon, Christ will return to put an end to all war (Revelation 19:11). The Prince of Peace will rule and reign over the millennial earth in righteousness upon a planet made pristine again by the Creator of all things.
Israel will be the host nation to the Lord’s throne atop Mt. Zion (Mt. Moriah remade and raised above the terrain). King David, in His resurrection body, will be Christ’s coregent for Israel, while Christ reigns as King over all the earthly kingdom. Thus, all promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be fulfilled.
Getting Ready Now is Crucial
There is no more critical a matter for any person than being second coming ready. The Christian (born-again child of God) must be ready for the moment when Jesus will say, “Come up here,” as He did to John in Revelation 4:1. This preparation can be made only through dedication to the purposes for which the person has been placed on earth–to carry out the will of God. That is done through prayer and study of the Bible, then translating that prayer and study into living every minute of every day with the thought of abiding in God’s will. We are to be royal ambassadors in a foreign land. Christians are to be outward-turning, not inward-focused–i.e., the child of God is supposed to think more of others than of himself or herself while going about daily life. This doesn’t mean assuming a pious, head-in-the-clouds attitude. It means that Christians should be Christ-like, meeting and interacting with people the way Jesus did. The believer should be about helping people in material ways, but always secondarily to informing them that Jesus alone is the way to God the Father for eternity (John 14:6).
This is how to be rapture ready, in the sense of being worthy to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Tribulation Saints Must Be Ready
Being Second Coming ready for the person who will enter the tribulation following the rapture of the church is another matter. But, getting ready to go through that most terrible time is essential. If you have been left behind when millions vanish, to be less than second coming ready will mean enduring torment forever, apart from the God who moved heaven and hell to bring you into His eternal family.
Faithful to the End
Getting second coming ready during the tribulation will mean turning one’s life over to Christ and trusting Him for salvation. It will mean standing for Christ no matter the challenges faced. It will mean refusing the mark of the Antichrist, thus being targeted for death. But, standing for Christ will bring eternal blessings, as promised to the martyrs of the tribulation era:
“And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:7-10).
Why Being Rapture Ready Is Essential
If you are reading this before the rapture, it is essential, in the view of many prophecy scholars, that you get ready now for the second coming of Christ, rather than await the tribulation era. There is significant evidence that those who are given, but refuse, the Holy Spirit’s call to accept Jesus Christ as Savior might not hear such a call during that last seven years.
The Scripture in question indicates God’s offer during the tribulation might not extend to those who during the time before the tribulation clearly knew they should accept Christ, but rejected that beckoning: “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12).
Time To Get Ready Is Now
There are no prophecies that precede the rapture of the church. Yet most every signal given by Jesus and the Old and New Testament prophets for the end of the age is on history’s horizon at present.
The hour is late; the rapture is imminent; it could literally take place at any moment. There are no guarantees of future opportunities for salvation. The Apostle Paul gives God’s Word about the urgency of the hour when it comes to getting second coming ready: “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation)” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).