One of the biggest mistakes with prophecy is that people get confused with the rapture and the second coming of Christ. However, they are two completely different events in the timeline of God’s prophecy.
The rapture is when Christ returns and takes every Christian who is on earth, and resurrects all those who have died in Christ and takes them to heaven with him. Paul speaks on this subject in 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
The rapture is God protecting his saints from tribulation, the years of judgment that will later be poured out on earth. Some argue that the tribulation period will begin before the rapture. But the Bible says “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8: 1); the church will not experience the judgment that God has planned for that moment.
At the end of those years of tribulation, the Bible affirms that Jesus will return, since this is his second coming, he will not come to earth as a humble child, but as the powerful and glorious King of the universe surrounded by all his saints.
But, if all this is the rapture, then what do they mean by the second coming of Christ?
The second coming occurs after the great and terrible tribulation (Revelation 6 and Revelation 19). Rapture occurs before tribulation (1 Thessalonians 5:9; Revelation 3:10).
The second coming of Christ will not occur until after certain other end-of-time events take place (Matthew 24: 15-30). The rapture is imminent and can happen at any time (1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18).
Why is it important to observe the difference between the rapture and the second coming of Christ?
- If the rapture and the second coming were the same event, believers would have to go through the Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 5: 9; Revelation 3:10). If the rapture and the second coming were the same event, the return of Christ is not imminent, and there would be many things that must happen before He can return to earth (Matthew 24: 4-30).
- In describing the tribulation period, chapters 6-19 of Revelation don’t mention the church anywhere. During the tribulation – also called “the time of trouble for Jacob” (Jeremiah 30: 7) – God will again turn His main attention to Israel (Romans 11: 17-31). The rapture and the second coming of Jesus Christ are similar but separate events.
Both are events part of the end. However, it is crucial to recognize the differences. In short, the rapture is the return of Christ in the clouds to move all believers on earth before the time of God’s wrath. The second coming is the return of Christ to earth, to end the Tribulation and to defeat the antichrist and his evil world empire.