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END TIMES - SECOND COMING (Phase 1 and Phase 2)

THE SECOND COMING

Careful study shows Jesus is physically coming back to Earth only once (Titus 2:11-13). The New Testament Greek term translated "hope" is not speaking of something merely wished for but of a confident expectation that Jesus absolutely will return for His Church.

Our Lord's Second Coming will take place in two phases. Phase One, The Rapture, takes place in the air. Jesus transports His Church up to the Father's house before the Tribulation. Phase Two, The Glorious Appearing, features Jesus coming to Earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to end the Tribulation period and to set up His 1000-year kingdom of peace. Both events are part of the Second Coming, yet neither encompasses the event in its totality.

Paul wrote about the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 to bring comfort to those who had lost loved ones prior to Christ's return.
•    Believers "who are asleep" in Jesus (those who have died) will be taken up in the air and then joined by believers who are alive at that moment.
•    They will all be transformed and given new, glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:50-58).
•    Jesus will take these believers to the Father's house to be with Him forever.

No signs are mentioned in the Bible that will indicate the Rapture is near. That's because the Rapture is imminent. It could happen at any moment. Thus the signs that reveal we are nearing the last days must have to do with the Tribulation, a time in which God will work through Israel, and not the Church.

Those who are left behind on Earth, unbelievers who could not be raptured, will experience what Jesus said would be the worst seven-year period in the history of the world (Matthew 24:21). This horrific period will culminate with the return of Jesus to Earth, the physical phase of the Second Coming, which Paul labels the "glorious appearing."

It is obvious these two phases are not the same and cannot occur at the same time. Jesus will come with "the armies in heaven," who will follow Him "on white horses." These armies will include the angelic hosts, the Church that was raptured, and the Tribulation saints who were martyred for their faith.

In John 14:1-3, Jesus' words were the words of God, words that will never pass away. Jesus guaranteed He would
        "come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."
While this is not the first time He promised He would come in what we call the Second Coming, this is the first time He or anyone else referred to the Rapture phase of His coming. Paul described the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, and we also find it mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, and Revelation 4:1-2.

Fifteen contrasting events that describe the two phases of our Lord's Second Coming show that it is impossible for them to be describing the same event. the Events of the Rapture before the Tribulation are found primarily in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17, and those of the Glorious Appearing are in Revelation 19:11-16. Many have never understood the distinction and think the promised Second Coming is a singular event rather happening in two phases seven years apart.

The Second Coming of Christ to set up His Kingdom cannot come now or any time soon! In fact, the Glorious Appearing of Christ cannot come for at least seven years! First the Rapture, then 7 years Tribulation, and then the Glorious Appearing.

When a Christian dies, his soul and spirit go to be with Christ in the Father's house, that is, in Heaven. His or her body, of course, remains in the grave until the resurrection, which for the Christian is at the end of the Church Age just before the Tribulation. At least four reasons show that the Rapture belongs before the Tribulation in the flow of events in the book of Revelation.
1.    Revelation 4 and Revelation 5 present a vision in Heaven. Revelation 6 introduces the Tribulation period. John, one of the first true members of the Church of Jesus Christ, is a fitting symbol of the Church being taken out of the world just before the Tribulation begins, as our Lord promised (Revelation 3:10).
2.    The absence of any mention of the Church in the rest of Revelation indicates that it is not on Earth during the Tribulation.
3.    The extensive use of Old Testament language and symbols in Revelation chapters 4-18 is an indication of Israel, not the Church.
4.    There is much similarity between the events of Revelation 4:1-2 and other scriptural teaching on the Rapture, such as 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. The Rapture of the Church is not explicitly taught in Revelation 4 but definitely appears here chronologically at the end of the Church Age and before the Tribulation.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 speaks of the translation of the Church. From a doctrinal standpoint, the main teaching of the passage is the truth that the translation of the Church will take place at the same moment as the resurrection of "the dead in Christ." A definite order is established:
"the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Another tremendous truth is implicit in the passage: the translation and resurrection take place before Christ actually returns to Earth.
•    There is no evidence that the Church is in the Tribulation period as no distinctive term is ever used connecting saints in the period with the Church.
•    The Tribulation concerns Israel and the Gentiles, not the Church.
•    The Church is promised deliverance from the time of Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Revelation 3:10, Revelation 6:17).
•    The Rapture is presented as an imminent event with no intervening prophecies and as such is offered as a ground of comfort.
•    The work of the Holy Spirit as the restrainer of sin cannot be terminated until the Holy Spirit is taken out of the way (2 Thessalonians 2:7). This would be impossible unless the Church was also raptured.

How do you describe the indescribable, the great shining light of Heaven itself described in Revelation 4:4? “White raiment" is the symbol of salvation in the Book of Revelation. The “elders” are not angels. They represent the redeemed people of God. This is the raptured Church in Heaven. They have crowns of gold upon their heads, crowns they have received from the Lord Himself.

In Revelation 5:10 is the promise of the-priesthood of the believer, the promise of our reign and rule, literally, on Earth. We are not just going to rule with God in a spiritual sense, in a symbolic sense. No, we will literally rule on Earth. Why? Because the Lamb of God, through His blood, gives us access to the throne of God. At His trial before the high priest, He was asked,
        "Are You the Messiah? Are You the Son of the Blessed One? Are You the Son of God?"
Jesus' answer was
        "Yes. And you will see Me coming in the future, in the clouds, in power and in great glory" (Matthew 26:63-64).

Revelation 6:16-17 is the wrath of Christ against an unbelieving world. That is why the Church is not here in these chapters. The Church is not the object of the wrath of Christ. She is the object of the love of Christ. She may be the object of the wrath of the world, the wrath of Satan, and the wrath of men, but not the wrath of Christ. Jesus does not “beat up” the Church in the Tribulation period. Beat up the Bride and then take her home to the Marriage at the end of the book? That does not make any kind of sense at all! Jesus loved the Church. He died for the Church. He gave Himself for the Church. And He is coming again for the Church.

The angels in Revelation 8:1-2 come, one after another, in staccato fashion and blow the trumpets of judgment for the world. This is not the last trumpet for the Church. That occurred at the Rapture. These are trumpets of judgment for the unbelievers who are left behind.

The symbolism in Revelation 12:1 comes right out of Joseph's dream in the Book of Genesis as he describes the family of Jacob, or Israel (Genesis 37:9-11). This woman is not the Church. The woman is the mother of Christ.
•    Jesus descends from the line of the people of Israel. He is the descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the line of Israel.
•    Jesus is the promised Messiah that comes through that unique line.
•    The Church is the Bride of Christ, and this woman is the mother of Christ.
The mother symbol here is the symbol of the nation of Israel. This is  important because at the end of the chapter, the fifth symbol, it is the remnant of her seed who are persecuted by Satan in the time of the Tribulation. It is not the Church that is being persecuted by Satan. It is the people of Israel in the time of the Tribulation which the prophets called "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7). So the symbolism must be consistent throughout the book.

At the middle point of the Tribulation period, Satan is cast out of Heaven permanently and is limited to Earth. He cannot touch the raptured Church in Heaven. The Battle of Armageddon is not coming until after the Rapture. It will be the final event to end the Tribulation period.

Then we have the Marriage of the Lamb, the spiritual marriage of the Church to Christ in Heaven. The Church has to go up to Heaven in the Rapture to go to the Marriage. At some point, the Church must go up to Heaven before Jesus returns. Why? Because the Church returns with Him from Heaven. The Marriage is the culmination of our relationship with Christ Himself in Heaven (Revelation 19:9). The Marriage appears to take place in Heaven, whereas the Marriage Supper will take place at the reception on Earth (Revelation 19:14). The Church received their fine linen back at Revelation 19:8 at the Marriage. So this army is not just an army of angels. This is the Church, the Bride of Christ, marching out of Heaven in triumph with her Warrior Husband. She is no longer the Church persecuted, maligned, rejected, or martyred. She is no longer the Church under the wrath of Satan or the wrath of man.

If you are a believer, you have more living ahead of you than you do behind you. You have the Rapture, the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Marriage, the Triumphal Return, the Millennial Kingdom, and all of eternity to live for Him. The raptured Church has gone to the Marriage. She returns in triumph and marches out of Heaven with Christ to reign and rule in His Kingdom on Earth. Yes, the Church will be raptured up before the time of Tribulation.

When we compare the contents of the Revelation with other Biblical prophecies, certain basic patterns emerge.
•    The Church will continue to grow.
•    Satanic opposition will intensify.
•    Israel will return to the Promised Land.
•    The Church will be raptured to Heaven.
•    Judgments of the tribulation period will follow.
•    Marriage of Christ and the Church.
•    Triumphal return of Christ.
•    Millennial Kingdom.
•    Final triumph.
•    Eternal state.

THE INVITATION
★    You can't depend on your own goodness to get to Heaven. We've all sinned  (Romans 3:23). Jesus paid the penalty for your sins with His death on the cross and His resurrection (John 3:16).
★    To be forgiven and be guaranteed a place in Heaven, you need to repent of sin, confess that you are a sinner, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart (Acts 2:21).
★    You can use the following prayer or your own words, but you must actually believe in your heart that your prayer is real:
         Lord Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God. I confess that I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed.
      Please forgive all my wrongdoing and let me live in relationship with You from now on.
      I receive You as my Savior and recognize that the work You accomplished once and for all on the cross was done on my behalf.
      Thank You for saving me. Help me to live a life that is pleasing to You.
                     In Your name I pray, Amen.

    Rev. Dr. Nicholas J. Gray, Pastor   Broadway Baptist Church   Sedalia, Missouri   2015