As Jesus continues His prophetic discourse in Matthew 24, He tells His disciples that He will return on the clouds and that the believers will meet Him in the air. Remember His sense of progression regarding the last days is intensified by the word: “Then.” This word which occurs several times, indicates a succession of events systematically. So the next then in Matthew 24 says:
Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect See, I have told you beforehand.. (Matthew 24:23-25)
Jesus warns us beforehand that there will be a great deception by false christs and false prophets and if possible even the elect or chosen ones will be deceived. In the Book of Revelation the false prophet will perform great signs and startling miracles, even making fire fall from the sky to the earth in men’s sight.
He will deceive those who inhabit the earth by commanding them to erect an image in the likeness of the beast that would have been wounded but still lived. This false prophet will be permitted to impart the breath of life into the beast’s image so that the statue of the beast could actually talk and cause to be put to death those who would not bow down and worship the image of the beast. (See Revelation 13: 13-15)
In Matthew 24:29, Jesus says: ‘‘Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shed its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.’’ Can this mean the stars we see in the sky at night will fall from heaven? These might be satanic angels described in Revelation 8: 10-11:
The third angel blew his trumpet, and a huge star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it dropped on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water—And the name of the star is Wormwood. A third part of the waters was changed into wormwood, and many people died from using the water, because it had become bitter.
And then at the beginning of Chapter 9:
Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit. (Revelation 9:1-2)
What about the Pre-Post-Mid-Tribulation Rapture?
The rise in belief in the pre-tribulation rapture is attributed to a 15-year old Scottish-Irish girl named Margaret McDonald. She reportedly received a vision in 1830 after she had a vision of the end times which describes a post-tribulation view of the rapture that was first published in 1840. It was published again in 1861, but two important passages demonstrating a post-tribulation view were removed to encourage confusion concerning the timing of the rapture. Some of the removed segments were:
This is the fiery trial which is to try us. – It will be for the purging and purifying of the real members of the body of Jesus” but Oh it will be a fiery trial. Every soul will he shake to the very centre. The enemy will try to shake in everything we have believed – but the trial of real faith will be found to honour and praise and glory. Nothing but what is of God will stand. The stony-ground hearers will be made manifest – the love of many will wax cold……“The trial of the Church is from the Antichrist. It is by being filled with the Spirit that we shall be kept.
Regardless of when the Rapture actually happens, we need to keep in mind that Jesus says that the birth pangs are going to increase in intensity and the situation is going to get worse rather than better. Jesus warns us to keep watch at all times Be discreet, attentive, and ready, praying that we may have the full strength and ability and be accounted worthy to escape all these things taken together that will take place, and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man. (Luke 21:36 AMP; see also Matthew 24:42-44; Mark 13:35-37) The apostle Paul tells us that:
Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape. But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief.
For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. (I Thessalonians 5:1-10 NLT)
Those who believe in the Pre-Tribulation divide the return of Christ in two main phases: the rapture of the church and the second coming of Christ. Those who reject a Pre-Tribulation rapture argue that it happens simultaneously with the return of Christ. But instead of entering into controversy over different interpretations, which does no good but upsets and undermines the faith of others, I would advise the reader to study the Bible prayerfully especially the Olivet discourse given by Jesus Christ in Matthew 24 and let the Holy Spirit reveal everything to you.
After the Tribulation
The Bible tells us that immediately after the tribulation of those days in other words there will be a lot of chaos in the world when Jesus comes….. the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
The Rapture will happen without warning, it will be swift, sudden, and forceful and there will be no time to get ready or an opportunity of last-minute repentance. Jesus says with another “then” how fast the Rapture will occur:
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 24:40-41) The gospel according to Luke tells us: That night there will be two men in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. (Luke 17:34).
Life will be going on as usual on the day of Christ’s return. Most people will be busy with everyday tasks, indifferent to the promptings of God in their hearts. When the rapture occurs, it will snatch one and leave the other.
In Matthew 24:30 two thens are mentioned in this verse: Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn and beat their breasts and lament in anguish, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory in brilliancy and splendor.
The prophet Zechariah prophesies that His Jewish brothers the tribes of Israel will mourn for the pierced one when they recognize their Messiah whom they blindly rejected. (See Zechariah 12:10-12) When King Josiah was wounded at the age of thirty-nine, his death sparked an extremely deep sense of grief among the people. That same kind of deep grief describes the mourning of Israel when they recognize as their once-crucified Messiah Who has come to reign.
When the Lord comes back, He will be visible to the whole world, as will the rising up of His people to meet Him in the air-a mystery of an event known as the Rapture. We need to clarify that the word rapture doesn’t appear in the Bible.
This word rapture comes from the Latin word “rapturo” which in Greek means “harpazo, gathered together or caught up.” Harpazo conveys the idea of force suddenly exercised which could be the same as snatch. Then we, the living ones who remain on the earth, shall simultaneously be caught up along with the resurrected dead in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so always (through the eternity of the eternities) we shall be with the Lord! (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
The next verse says, Therefore comfort and encourage one another with these words. We should comfort ourselves that with the promise that Jesus would come anytime. This event is not going to be a secret. Jesus described in this way: And He (the Lord) will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:31)
Is that a secret? No! Jesus is saying all those who remain on earth who are God’s chosen ones will be gathered from one end of heaven to the other. Paul called it a mystery by saying that the chosen ones who will be alive that day will not die but will be transformed instantly.
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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:50-54)
The biblical description of the rapture involves both the resurrection of deceased believers and the translation of living believers into the air to meet the Lord. Paul goes on to tell us that:
Now also we would not have you ignorant, brethren, about those who fall asleep [ in death], that you may not grieve [for them] as the rest do who have no hope [beyond the grave].For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will also bring with Him through Jesus those who have fallen asleep [in death].For this we declare to you by the Lord’s [own] word, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall in no way precede [into His presence] or have any advantage at all over those who have previously fallen asleep [in Him in death].
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud cry of summons, with the shout of an archangel, and with the blast of the trumpet of God. And those who have departed this life in Christ will rise first. Then we, the living ones who remain [on the earth], shall simultaneously be caught up along with [the resurrected dead] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so always (through the eternity of the eternities) we shall be with the Lord! Therefore comfort and encourage one another with these words.(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 AMP)
The above passages are a description of the Rapture. However the word “Rapture” as we’ve already seen is not found in the KJV English Bible. Paul wrote about people who will not “sleep” in other words, they will not die. Those people will be changed and brought into the presence of God in the twinkling of an eye. The rapture is clearly taught in the Bible and that we can expect this climatic event for the Church to take place at any time.
The Bible makes it clear that only those belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ will be raptured. The apostle Paul wrote that to the Thessalonians, “Then we which are alive…” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). He did not specify a certain group within the Church or a selected group of people from among the Church; he simply said “we.” The rapture (or “translation”) of the Church is often paralleled to the “raptures” of Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:12). In each case, the individual disappeared or was caught up into heaven.
In the New Testament several different passages describe a clear picture of what the Rapture might look like. At His ascension, our Lord Himself was “taken up” into heaven. (Acts 1:9 KVJ) After Philip had baptized the Ethiopian eunuch in Act 8, he was caught away: Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.” (Acts 8:39)
In 2 Corinthians 12: 2-4 Paul talks about a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. And Revelation 12:5 says a male Child. ….was caught up to God and His throne.
Are we ready?
These are some of the Scriptures in the New Testament describing the return of Jesus Christ:
(Daniel 2:44-45; Daniel 7:9-14; Daniel 12:1-3; Zechariah 14:1-15; Matthew 13:41; Matthew 24:15-31; Matthew 26:64; Mark 13:14-27; Romans 8:19; Philippians 3:20-21; Colossians 3:4; Hebrews 10:37; John 14:2-3; 1 Corinthians 1:7;2 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8; 2 Timothy 4:8; Hebrews 9:28; James 5:7-9; 2 Peter 3: 1-14; 1 John 3:2; Revelation 1:7-8; Revelation 22:7, 12, 20 and many others)
All these Scriptures indicate that we have to be watching, praying and serving so that we may have the sensitivity of what the Holy Spirit is to saying to us whether it is night or day. So we should be ready at all times to meet the Lord who could come at any moment to call us home either through death or the rapture. The joy of knowing that one day we will be caught up into the presence of Christ causes all earthly concerns to fade. That is why Paul reminded us that: For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20 NKJV).
Now the question is: Are we ready considering the fact Jesus didn’t mind comparing himself to a thief? For the day of the Lord will come like a thief and then the heavens will vanish (pass away) with a thunderous crash, and the material elements of the universe will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up (2 Peter 3:10).
Will the Lord come back as our blessed hope (Titus 2:13) or, as our Holy Terror? The choice is yours- Choose this day whom you will serve. (Joshua 24:15) Oxford professor C. S. Lewis wrote that:
When the Author of life walks on the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then? When you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else….something that never entered your head to conceive – comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left.
For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that is will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.