Three Parts of the Second Coming: Rapture, Reward and Return
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,