In the near future, an unprecedented event of worldwide significance will take place. Jesus Christ will return. In fact, he will return twice. The first time secretly; the second time so that all eyes can see him. The first instance is known as “the rapture,” and it is the blessed hope of all true Christians.
Immediately preceding the seven year period of the Tribulation, Jesus will return for all those who have placed their faith in Him. They will be transformed in an instant, and appear before the throne of God in heaven. Several New Testament passages reference this event. The Apostle Paul mentions it in his first letter to the Corinthians:
“But let me tell you a wonderful secret God has revealed to us. Not all of us will die, but we will all be transformed. It will happen in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, the Christians who have died will be raised with transformed bodies. And then we who are living will be transformed so that we will never die. For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 (NLT)
Why does this event occur? Jesus tells us why: “Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world.” Revelation 3:10 (NLT)
Prior to the Tribulation (the “great time of testing”), Jesus will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, accompanied by the call of the archangel and the trumpet call of God. At that time, all those who believe Jesus Christ is Lord, who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, will be transformed into the spirit and will be caught up into the clouds to dwell forever with the Lord. All this will happen in a “blinking of an eye.” As Paul further describes:
“I can tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 (NLT)
Almost everyone has heard of the Second Coming of Christ, but few realize that the Second Coming is divided into two parts: the rapture and the glorious appearing. The glorious appearing will occur at the end of this age, approximately seven years after the rapture. When this happens, every eye on the earth will see the Lord coming, and He will be coming to judge the people of the earth. This is the event Jesus referred to when he said, “in the future you will see me, the Son of Man, sitting at God’s right hand in the place of power and coming back on the clouds of heaven.” Matthew 26:64 (NLT). This will not be an unexpected coming because this event will be preceded by the prophesied events of the Great Tribulation.
However, the rapture is different. It will take the world completely by surprise, and it could happen at any moment. This is the event Jesus described when he said:
“However, no one knows the day or the hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the Flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the Flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.”
“Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left. So be prepared, because you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Know this: a homeowner who knew exactly when a burglar was coming would stay alert and not permit the house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time. For the Son of Man will come when least expected.” Matthew 24:36-44 (NLT)
The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night, quickly and unexpectedly. Those who are alert and awake will be caught up into the clouds to be with God; while those are not will be left behind to endure the “great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world.”
As this website attests, this generation will surely see the fulfillment of the end times prophecies of the Bible, including the rapture, the tribulation, and the glorious appearing. Jesus instructed his followers to look for the signs of his coming. In rebuking the Pharisees and Sadducees, he said “You are good at reading the weather signs in the sky, but you can’t read the obvious signs of the time!” Matthew 16:3 (NLT) He was admonishing the religious leaders of his day, and their inability to recognize the time of his coming as foretold in the Old Testament Messianic prophecies. Just as the people of that day refused to recognize the “signs of the times,” we too must be on guard at all times, watching for the signs of his coming.
The most important sign is that Israel is once again a nation. Jesus told his followers:
“Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its buds become tender and its leaves begin to sprout, you know without being told that summer is near. Just so, when you see the events I’ve described beginning to happen, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. I assure you, this generation will not pass from the scene before all these things take place. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will remain forever.” Matthew 24:32-35 (NLT)
The fig tree Jesus refers to is Israel. It’s been six decades since Israel was once again declared a nation against all worldly odds. Jesus promised that the generation which witnessed fulfillment of this prophecy would not die off until all the things of which he spoke came to pass.
The hourglass is running out on this promise, so be alert. Invite Jesus into your heart, and change your worldly perspective into a heavenly outlook. Prepare yourself for His soon return, and you will not be disappointed. For “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT)