The doctrine of the Second Coming is deeply “offensive” to the developmental character of modern thought. (C.S. Lewis)
C.S. Lewis, of the Chronicles of Narnia fame, has written about this shying away from the study of the 2nd Coming of Christ:
The doctrine of the Second Coming is deeply “offensive” to the whole evolutionary or developmental character of modern thought. We have been taught to think of the world as something that grows slowly towards perfection, something that “progresses” or “evolves“.
Christian “end of the world” teaching offers us no such hope! It does not even foretell (which would be more tolerable to our habits of thought) a gradual decay. It foretells a sudden, violent end imposed from without; an extinguisher popped onto the candle, a brick flung at the gramophone, a curtain rung down on the play “Halt!”
I want to write here as briefly as possible and as accurately as I can what the book of Revelation tells us about the Last Days and the 2nd Coming. Jeff Gilbertson
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place; and He [Jesus] sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John. (Rev. 1:1)
The book is better called “The Unveiling” because we get caught right at the first page thinking this is something too difficult for us to understand… too “spooky” or bizarre. It is the unveiling of Jesus Christ! It is a unique disclosure of Him, different than we read about in the previous 65 books!
The book of Revelation is one of the most exciting books to read in the whole Bible once you get past the fog of mystery and controversial and conflicting opinions. There is a blessing promised to those who do read the book and keep its words!
Here is what I understand and believe it says and I hope you can follow along.
Ch 1 is the call and background of John. He wrote the book while a prisoner from the small island of Patmos, right off the coast to Asia Minor. He was in his 80s most people believe! Exiled and elderly, just like another prophet of old who wrote “the book of revelation in the Old Testament”, Daniel.
Ch 2-3 are 7 letters of reproof and encouragement that Jesus dictated to John in a vision for 7 specific churches in Asia Minor.
“Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches…” (Jesus in Rev 1:11)
Ch 4-5 paints one of the most beautiful pictures of heaven in print! Here we read of God Almighty sitting on the throne of Heaven, encircled by 4 living creatures. Around them the 24 elders sit on their thrones — these signify the “12 tribes of Israel” and the “12 disciples”.
“Day and night they do not cease to say: Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, Who was and Who is and Who is to come…” (Rev 4:8)
In the midst of this scene of “day and night worship” John sees that the One sitting on the Throne has a small scroll in His right hand…
Believe it or not, this scene is the crowning scene of Heaven and of all human history!
This small scroll is sealed up with 7 seals and is the “Title Deed” of Earth. As Jesus takes this small scroll from His Father, all of Heaven (millions of angels!!) falls before the Lamb and sing: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to break the seals…”
Ch 6 – 8 is the Lamb, Jesus, breaking the 7 seals of the scroll — the “title deed” of earth and releasing 7 judgments on the earth. The first four seals are the famous “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”.
What is going to happen here, until the end of the book, is that God is going to transition the two ages of human history. Jesus spoke about these two ages as :
1. “this present age” – from Adam to the Return of Jesus.
2. “the age to come” – from Jesus’ Return to Eternity.
Things happen quickly now!! After the four seals are broken and the judgments released over 1/4 of mankind will be killed!
The 7th seal is not a separate judgment but is the opening of the scroll when all the seals are broken off. The scroll unfolds and inside the scroll are found the 7 trumpets.
It is at this point that there is complete silence in heaven for about 30 minutes as all the “heavenly host” consider the astounding judgments to come and the final ushering in of the Return of Christ to earth!
Things happen even quicker now!!
Jesus liken this time to “birth pangs” and we all know that once they start they only grow in intensity and frequency! Taken together, the opening of the 7 seals and the blowing of the 7 trumpets will take exactly 3 1/2 years.
Then trumpets bring even greater judgment to the earth. 1/3 of the earth is stricken with hail and fire, 1/3 of the sea becomes like blood, 1/3 of the earth is in darkness. If this sounds a lot like the judgments on Egypt and the Pharaoh it is because they are! This was a foreshadowing of what will take place on earth during the Great Tribulation (Mtt 24:21) at the end of this present age.
(Please notice that the children of Israel were protected from the 10 plagues released by Moses- even though they were living right amongst the people of Egypt! – see Exodus Ch 7 -11)
Once the 6th trumpet ( Rev 9) is sounded 1/3 of mankind is destroyed by 3 plagues of fire and smoke and brimstone. (Together with the 4th seal and the 6th trumpet, 1/2 of mankind is killed!) Incredibly, the total of deaths during this “great tribulation” will equal 3 million deaths per day for duration of the 3 1/2 year period.
This is what the book of Revelation clearly says and most scholars say it that plainly. But there are some Bible experts who cannot believe what is written will happen and so they treat the whole book of Revelation in a symbolic manner. I cannot agree with this position.
And Now For the Good News.
Here is the most dramatic event in the history of the world and yet sadly the church and the world are confused and sleepy about it: the 7th trumpet.
When the 7th trumpet is blown Jesus Christ returns to earth!! Rev 11: 15-18
Rev 10 sets this up very well for us and says that when the 7th trumpet is blown that the “mystery of God is finished as He preached to his servants the prophets.” (Rev 10: 7)
This moment is the famous Rapture of the believers from the earth.
“…in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” I Cor 15: 52
Jesus will come “with the clouds and every eye will see Him”. (Rev 1:7)
Once the believers are taken from the earth and meet the Lord in the air with the “dead in Christ”, Jesus will return to the earth and NEVER LEAVE! He will now complete His Father’s will and personally carry out the last remaining judgments: the 7 bowls of wrath. (Rev 15-16)
As these 7 bowls are poured out and bring 100% complete destruction to the earth, the only people left on earth now are all those people who have sided with the Antichrist and the false prophet (for more on this: Rev 13). They must have already received the mark of the beat “666” sometime during the great tribulation period. This is a willful act on the part of masses of humanity. This is not something that happens “while you are sleeping” or you don’t know if you have the “mark” or not!
Rev 13:8 says that “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written in the book of Life…”
The End Is Near ( or should I say: The Beginning is Near!)
As the 7th bowl of wrath is poured out, a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying “IT IS DONE!” (Rev 16:17) Very similar to what Jesus spoke from the cross: “It is finished!” (John 19:30) Only John — same author — records this statement from Jesus’ lips in the his Gospel!
This is the Final Battle recorded in Rev 19 where John sees Jesus on a white horse, His eyes are a flame of fire and a sharp sword come out of His mouth to “smite the nations”.
At this Final Battle (known incorrectly as the Battle of Armageddon) all humanity is killed except for those who have NOT received the mark of the beast. They are called by some “the Resisters”. The Antichrist and the false prophet are thrown alive into the lake of fire. (Satan will join them there 1000 years later!)
Jesus now will reign on earth with the saints for 1000 years! (Rev 20:4) He will establish the kingdom of God back on this earth as it was in the garden of Eden.
The last book of the bible takes us back to the first book!
It is during this Millennium period that “the lion will lay down with the lamb”. (This is an inaccurate, though well known, quote of Isaiah11.)
Isaiah 11:6 “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.”
Satan will be bound in the Abyss for those 1000 years, yet at the end he will be released for a short time and will try, once again, to fight against God!! He will assemble an army of those humans who survived the Great Tribulation (i.e. the resisters’ children) but his end will happen without a battle. He will join his friends in the lake of fire for eternity, to be tormented forever and ever! (Rev 20:10)
Now comes the Great White Throne were all those dead without Christ in their hearts are judged. “You must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God” Jesus told the people Whom He lived amongst. Those who were never “born again are right now waiting in hell to be judged at this great white throne. The book of life will be opened “and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books” (Rev 20:12)
When the books are closed and all the dead are “dead again” and thrown into the lake of fire, the earth is FINALLY ready to receive the Father! God himself will once again walk here on earth! Just like He did with Adam and Eve.
The New Jerusalem
John now sees a “New Jerusalem” coming down from heaven (Rev 21-22), “made ready as a bride adorned for her husband [Jesus].” (Rev 21: 2)
This moment is the ” restoration of all things” ( Acts 3:21) when Jesus “delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule, and all authority and power.” (I Cor 15: 24)
> The New Jerusalem will have no temple because God and the lamb are its temple!
> The New Jerusalem will have no need of sun or moon for its light is the Lamb!
> The New Jerusalem will have gates that never shut! (These are the “pearly gates” by the way!)
It is a huge city measuring over 1400 miles wide, long and high! Artists are not able to accurately depict this city. I can show you its size however. (Make a mental note that it is 1400 mile high — planes fly about 7 miles high!)
In the middle of the city is the tree of life, which we first saw in the Garden of Eden! It will bear fruit every month! From this tree we can eat!!
To him who overcomes and makes it into the New Jerusalem, Jesus said he “will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God!” (Rev 2:7)
All Christians will have renewed bodies once the “rapture” takes place at the 7th trumpet. (Those “waiting in heaven” like Abraham, Isaiah and Daniel, Peter, James and John, will have risen first to meet him “in the air”. I Thess 4:16-17) We will be like Jesus was when He showed Himself bodily alive after His resurrection. He could eat, He could walk though walls! We will be the same…for all eternity!
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev 21: 2-5)
There it is in all its beauty and splendor. Take it or leave it, this is what the book of Revelation really says and this is what will happen.
When the subject of the Second Coming came up amongst the Twelve disciples, Jesus was quick to reply that they should:
“See to it that no one misleads you…”(Mtt 24: 4, Mk 13: 5, Lk 21:8)
Well, two thousand years later this word from Jesus still remains “living and active”. One of the biggest parts of not being misled is to know for yourself where you are headed!
We must “take pains with these things” so that when false teaching creeps in we can recognize it and refute it. We must “search out the Scriptures daily” and fill our hearts with the truth so we will be ready and awake in “that day”.
The apostle Paul went so far as to “beg” the Thessalonians not to be quickly shaken or disturbed from false teachers who went about purportedly in Paul’s name teaching a different doctrine and urged them to hold fast to what he had taught them and that they were to “encourage each other with these things”. (I Thess 4:15-18; 2 Thess 2:1-3)
If the body of Christ can grasp the timing and the magnitude of the Second Coming with these three words – Rapture, Reward and Return – I believe that we will be well on our way to standing strong when all else about us is falling.
Right now we are far from being able to edify each other about the Blessed Hope of His appearing. To put it plainly, the deadlock is this:
First Christ “comes on the clouds” to gather His bride in the air and then He “comes on a white horse” to wage war with the Antichrist and his armies back on earth. Not seeing these two separate events, which are seen clearly in the book of Revelation, has resulted in a church caught in a “chess-like stale mate”! Neither side seems willing to budge…
If I were to describe the end times scenario with a few more words it would look like this:
”At the Last Trumpet we will be ‘caught away’ to meet Christ in the air (Rapture); He will reward all saints of all time at this meeting in the clouds (Reward); then ‘heaven will invade earth’ as the armies of God follow their leader who is riding on a white horse with a sword in His mouth to execute judgment on all the nations (Return).”
There it is in one (long) sentence… what has been debated, disputed and hacked up for 2000 years.
1. Rapture “He is coming with the clouds”
”Behold, He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him.” Rev 1:7
When Jesus left this earth last time, He was standing on the Mount of Olives and a “cloud received Him out of their sight”. (Acts 1: 9) In the same way He will come again – with the clouds. (Mtt 24: 30, 26:64; Dan 7:13)
Paul also saw this vision even before John on the island of Patmos:
”For the Lord will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up (Latin ‘rapture’) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (I Thess 4: 16-17)
Jesus is currently seated in heaven at His Father’s right hand. He must remain in heaven UNTIL the “period of restoration of all things”. (Acts 3:21) At the last trumpet, which is in a series of seven (Rev 8-9) “the time has come for the mystery of God to be finished” (Rev 10:6-7) and for “the dead to be judged… and to destroy those who destroy the earth” (Rev 11:18)
Jesus Himself told His disciples that He would come “on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.” And right at that moment He would “send forth His angels with great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from one end of the sky to the other. “ (Mtt 24: 30-31; Mk 13: 26-27)
In the beauty and majesty of God this heavenly scene was not only shown Paul and John but also Daniel in a “night vision” about 2700 years ago!!
”And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like the Son of Man was coming and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented to Him, And to him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.” (Dan 7: 13-14)
2. Reward “He is coming with His rewards”
”Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me.” Rev 22:12
At this incredibly grand meeting “in the air” with Jesus, the angels will gather with the dead in Christ with their new transformed bodies. These are joined by those who have just been caught up from earth and given “changed bodies” (I Cor 15:51-52).
At this glorious moment, unequaled in human history, Christ will reward His servants:
”The time [has come] for the dead to be judged, and the time to give their reward to Thy bond-servants the prophets and to the saints and to those who fear Thy name, the small and the great. (Rev 11:18)
Once again Paul understood this moment and remarked to Timothy at the end of his life:
”I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Tim 4:7-8)
3. Return “He is coming on a white horse”
”And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon is called Faithful and true; and in righteousness He judges and wages war… And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following with Him on white horses.” (Rev 19:11,14)
After the vast “gathering in-the-air”, once the saints have been rewarded, Jesus will mobilize this huge army to return to the earth and finish the last battle for ownership of earth with the Antichrist and his armies. This battle is commonly know as the Battle of Armageddon.
What most people can not imagine is that the saints are riding with Jesus on white horses as He brings the final judgments on the earth. We will not be fighting but we will be “following Him” as seen in Rev 19: 14.
For further clarification of this please notice that in Rev 17 we are also shown as being “with Jesus” as he wages war on the beast (the Antichrist)
“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast. These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” (Rev 17: 12-14)
I know that for many of you this thought of Jesus reigning on earth for 1000 years is new and even more stunning is that after He “delivers up the kingdom to God when He has abolished all rule and all authority“ (I Cor 15: 24), God Himself will come down from heaven with the New Jerusalem and together He and His Son will rule and reign here on earth forever! (Rev 21-22)
To solidify that last scene, I want to close with this quote from George Ladd, esteemed professor of New Testament and Greek at Fuller Seminary and one of their original faculty members:
”Throughout the entire Bible, the ultimate destiny of God’s people is an earthly destiny. In typical Greek thought, the universe was divided into two realms: the earthly or transitory, and the eternal spiritual world… However, biblical thought always places man on a redeemed earth, not in a heavenly realm removed from earthly existence.” (A commentary on the Revelation of John)
Yours for the least in the Kingdom,