(This article is an excerpt of my book, The Coming Kingdom of God.)
The Bible explicitly tells us exactly when Jesus Christ is going to visibly return with His mighty angels in flaming fire to take vengeance on the ungodly.
I said exactly.
Hah! You think you’ve got me. I’m whistling and waiting while you gather your rocks. Ready? Okay… Jesus is visibly coming back in the skies in great power and glory with angels of fire to take vengeance on the ungodly “immediately after the tribulation.”
Do you recognize that phrase? You should. It’s Matthew 24:29-30:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days 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.
Since Jesus returns to earth “immediately after the tribulation of those days,” all we must do to identify when He will return is to (1) identify “the tribulation of those days,” and (2) identify the end of that tribulation. That’s it!
No unravelling secret biblical codes. No expertise of Jewish holy days and festivals. No private interpretations of Scripture.
When Does the Great Tribulation Begin And End?
Fortunately, the definition and period of this tribulation is not left to our imaginations to determine. The Lord and His prophets provide both general and specific details that reveal its beginning, middle, and end.
- We know the tribulation period begins when the antichrist makes a seven-year treaty with Israel. This begins the seven-year countdown to the end of the age.
- We know two powerful prophets publicly oppose the antichrist for three and one-half years before they are killed (Revelation 11:3-12).
- We know the antichrist breaks his seven-year treaty with Israel and invades the country at the three and one-half-year mark (Daniel 9:27).
- We know the antichrist lasts for three and one-half years after he invades Israel (Daniel 13:1-5).
- We know there will be a worldwide showdown with most of the world’s armies at the battle of Armageddon in northern Israel three and one-half years after the antichrist invades Israel (Revelation 16:12-16; 19:19).
- We know Jesus appears in the sky and interrupts the battle of Armageddon seven years after the antichrist makes the treaty with Israel (Zechariah 14:3-5).
Today if I were to try to determine when the visible appearance of Jesus will occur, all I could do is what anyone else can do—take a wild guess! But if a political figure arises who fits the description of the antichrist, and announces a seven-year treaty with Israel, I no longer am left with guesswork.
Jesus Visibly Returns During the Battle of Armageddon
All I need do is believe what Jesus said in Matthew 24:29-30. He’s coming back during the battle of Armageddon, which is seven years away. Now even though I still don’t know the day or hour He will appear, the Scriptures have narrowed the time down to days and possibly a week or so.
The point of this is not to identify the day or hour of the coming of the Lord. I’ll leave that to people who want to make fools of themselves.
Rather, it is to show the huge difference in Scriptures that tell us Jesus is coming back “at an hour you do not expect” (Luke 12:40) and those that say He’s coming back “immediately after the tribulation” (Matthew 24:29).
Obviously, there is an irreconcilable difference in Jesus coming back when I don’t expect Him, and Him promising to come back immediately after the tribulation.
Which is it? Is He coming back when I least expect it? Or is He coming back immediately after the tribulation, which I do expect—because He’s the one who said this is when He’d immediately appear?
Jesus Secretly Returns For His Church Before the Tribulation Period
The pre-tribulation rapture position is that this conflict is reconciled by Jesus first secretly coming for His church before the tribulation, and visibly coming later to deal with the antichrist and to consummate the end of the age. This satisfies the Scriptures that say His coming is sudden, and those that say His coming is not sudden.
This concept of the coming of the Lord being two actual events is not new and not unproven. Old Testament saints read the prophecies of the coming of the Messiah and ran into difficulty with their apparent contradictions.
Would the Messiah be the eternal God come to earth to destroy the enemies of Israel and to establish an everlasting kingdom? Or would he be a human man anointed by God who would do great things, but be killed as a sacrifice for sins?
Absolutely irreconcilable prophecies.
But in retrospect we know they are not irreconcilable. They are reconciled by the Messiah being both God and man. He comes the first time to establish a spiritual kingdom by dying a sacrificial death for the sins of the world. He comes the second time to establish the physical kingdom of God.
Old Testament saints could not have known then, but we know now, that the composite of those Old Testament prophecies was talking about two comings of the Lord and not one.
Similarly, we still have a bunch of apparently irreconcilable Scriptures in the Old and New Testament about the coming of the Lord. But they’re only irreconcilable if we make the mistake of Old Testament saints and try to fit them into one appearance.
Why Should We Not Believe the Lord Would Appear to His Saints and Not the World?
Why should it be difficult to believe God may do what He has already done? That is, come the first time in a way quite different from the way He comes the second time? First, appearing only to His servants in mercy. Second, appearing to the world in judgment.
That’s what He did with Noah and Lot before He poured out His wrath (Luke 17:26-37). Why not us?
Again, it is Scriptural and not odd at all that Jesus should appear to His people and not the world. He did this many times after His resurrection. And I’m not talking about through visions.
The risen Christ secretly appeared to Mary (Luke 24:1-11), and later secretly to the apostles (John 20:19-20). Then He secretly appeared to them over a period of forty days and taught them about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:1-4). He even secretly appeared to five hundred men at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6).
No One Knows When the Rapture Will Occur, But We Do Know When the Visible Coming of the Lord Will Occur
So, we are on proven ground when we say it is not odd that Jesus should secretly appear to His own people and not the world. But let’s make sure we end this article in clarity.
Does anyone know when the Lord will suddenly snatch away His faithful servants before He unleashes His wrath on the world for their disobedience?
No. Nope. Nada. Nyet.
Yet we do know that once this occurs, a 7-year prophetic clock starts ticking. It will stop ticking at the battle of Armageddon when the Lord visibly appears in the sky in power and great glory.
I believe He is coming soon.
(This article is an excerpt of my book, The Coming Kingdom of God.)
- We Can Know the General Time of the Lord’s Return.
- Can Jesus Return Before the Gospel Is Preached to the Whole World?
- Jesus Knows When He Will Return
- Will We Rule With Christ?
- Yes! You Should Know The Times And Seasons
- How Are The Dead Raised?
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