Table of Contents
Pre-Trib Rapture vs. Post-Trib Rapture
Click Here to view the video version of this article.
What is the Rapture?
The Rapture is the transformation of our bodies to be like Christ’s resurrected body.
Philippians 3:20-21 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
We await transformation. The living long for Christ to come to earth, then the departed saints and the living will be transformed. The Resurrection of the Dead and Rapture are at the same event as we shall examine later.
It is of extreme importance to note that the saints wait on earth for the appearing of the Savior. All passages about the Rapture and Second Advent point to believers on earth, for Christ to “come” to us. There are no passages that state we “go” to Heaven. This is why it is often called the Second Coming.
If you want to take a test or test someone, try to find a passage in the entire Bible that reports believers going to Heaven after Christ appears, or after the Rapture, or after the Resurrection. There are general statements like “we will always be with the Lord” after the Rapture, but they do not specifically state the location.
Is the Rapture a physical transformation or spiritual? The entire faith of Christianity hinges upon a physical, bodily Resurrection from death at the Second Advent. This is the foundation of the afterlife belief in the Bible. Paul makes this very clear in 1 Corinthians 15. It is the most important passage in the Bible about the Rapture.
Verses 12-14 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.
Verses 51-53 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 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 shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
There are cases of spiritual resurrections, termed as “raising” or “lifting” types of root words that differ from the Greek word anastasis. Anastasis is the primary term for the bodily Resurrection at the Second Advent. Certainly, we are “raised” with Christ today in a spiritual sense, but this is not the entire gospel. There is the paradox that we are saved now and not yet saved. We are ultimately saved when we receive a transformed body, when we are “changed” from mortality to immortality.
Resurrections in the New Testament with a Greek anastasis root word meaning to physically “stand up” (such as Lazarus in John 11:23-24) are not used as spirit resurrections in other passages.
2 Timothy 2:18 clarifies that the Resurrection is a singular, future event from when Paul wrote his epistle. There are not multiple raptures, since there is only one Second Advent.
1 John 3:2 states that Christ’s appearing is in the future when we will be transformed.
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
Prior to this, 1 John 2:28 correlates Christ’s physical appearing with His coming. The Second Coming and “appearing” are synonymous and synchronous in Second Advent passages.
Bodily Resurrection language where eyes can see Christ’s return is throughout scripture such as Job 19:25-27a. Here we get a glimpse of Christ touching down on earth at the time of the Resurrection.
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
“Appearing” is used in the future tense in Second Advent passages mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:8, 2 Timothy 4:8, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 9:28, 1 Peter 5:4, and 1 John 3:2. Colossians 3 also reports what happens when Christ appears.
Colossians 3:1-4 “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Paul explains the paradox in Colossians when he used figurative language of the metaphor “raised” in the past tense, but it describes an actual event that took place when the believer was baptized / born again.
Being raised with Christ references a spiritual lifting event (the second birth mentioned by Christ to Nicodemus in John 3:3-7). The passage then moves on to the appearing (Second Coming) in the future tense.
Is the Rapture Before or After the Great Tribulation Period?
The Church goes through the Great Tribulation as does Israel of blood descent. There would be no need to give warnings against people taking the Mark of the Beast, or that we may die by the sword or go into captivity. Revelation was written for believers, not unbelievers, so the warnings are for us. There is a clear call for our endurance.
If anyone has an ear, let him hear:
If anyone is to be taken captive,
to captivity he goes;
if anyone is to be slain with the sword,
with the sword must he be slain.
Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.
— Revelation 13:9-10
Revelation 13 is written for the saints because the context of chapter 13 depicts believers on earth during the Great Tribulation Period (Revelation 13:7), with the Mark of the Beast being mentioned in Revelation 13:16-17.
Next, we need to understand the Day of the Lord in relation to the Great Tribulation.
2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,
1 Thessalonians chapters 1 and 2 explain the concept of Christ’s coming, which is the climax of the Day of the Lord.
2 Thessalonians Summary
- The Day of the Lord will not arrive until after the Antichrist is revealed.
- Christ’s next advent is associated with the Day of the Lord.
- The Rapture is not realized until Christ comes.
Summary – the Antichrist must be revealed before the Day of the Lord, which means that the Rapture occurs after the Great Tribulation Period begins, at some point during the Day of the Lord.
We can’t overlook the glaring problem of a pre-tribulation Rapture, the mention of the Day of the Lord. It must be completely disassociated from the coming of Christ in verse 1 of 2 Thessalonians 2 if a pre-trib Rapture is correct, yet Paul associates all three milestones in succession.
The first chapter of 2 Thessalonians states the “revealing” in verse 7 and His “coming” in verse 10. The context is clear for chapter 2 to be based upon chapter 1 using these foundational terms for the Second Advent that the Day of the Lord is always associated with. Revealing, Coming and Day are all connected.
If the Day of the Lord in verses 2-3 of 2 Thessalonians 2 is at the same time as the coming of the Lord in verse 1, then the pre-trib Rapture theory falls apart completely. It seems obvious that Paul is speaking of the same period simply by reading the text alone with no preconceived idea of a pre-trib Rapture. However, preconceived notions tend to yield a forced interpretation.
The “Day of the Lord” is a well-known term. Joel 2:1-2, 10-11, 30-32, and Joel 3:12-16 define most of the Day of the Lord language. It is also presented in Matthew 24:29-30. The main point is that Christ speaks to this event occurring after the Great Tribulation begins. Paul repeats this concept with the man of sin (Antichrist) being revealed before the Day of the Lord (before the Second Coming).
The Second Advent is approximate to the Day of the Lord timing –
Paul states the Antichrist will be revealed before this Day of the Lord that includes all the heavenly signs mentioned in Joel, Matthew 24 and elsewhere. The Great Tribulation Period is at the time of the Antichrist, so Paul stated that our gathering with Christ is after the Antichrist is revealed by the signs. A post-tribulation Rapture event should be favored based on Paul’s writings.
What Does Rapture Mean?
Those who are alive at His coming will be “caught up.” Rapture simply means to snatch (or save) from destruction coming upon the earth. It is not associated with the feeling people have when they are in some hypnotic state.
There is another example of snatching found in Jude 1:22-23 using the same root word as the Rapture of 1 Thessalonians 4:17. To be snatched means saved from wrath in this context, so Paul and Jude utilized the same meaning. The wicked are destroyed (taken away) and the just are saved from destruction (kept with Christ).
Who Will be Taken or Who Will be Left Behind?
Luke 17:33-37 has an opposite meaning of what adherents believe happens in a pre-tribulation Rapture. They believe that believers are taken to Heaven in the Rapture. However, Luke 17 explains those who are taken (the wicked) are subject to the vultures as being differentiated from those who are left to be with Christ. Other Biblical texts show that the saved are kept with Christ to enter Heaven on earth.
Luke 17:33-37 “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”
Matthew 13’s explanation of the parable of the Wheat and Tares depicts this same concept. The wheat (the good) is kept while the tares (the bad) are taken away (burned). The Rapture event is not being “taken” to Heaven. Instead, we are kept (saved) in the storehouse away from harm coming upon the earth.
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one,and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The Harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers,and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. — Matthew 13:36-43
As in the Days of Noah
The Days of Noah is another good analogy of timing before the wrath of God is poured out again upon the earth, since both Peter and Christ use the flood to explain their point.
Matthew 24:38-39 “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man”
The key phrase that stands out and demands attention here is “swept away” to mean they were taken away just like the weeds in the Harvest parable. The root word means to “take up” or “lift,” so again we see “taken” being ascribed to the wicked people. It does not mean taken up to the clouds since “swept away” has an undesirable meaning within this context. The example of the wicked in Noah’s day is clearly opposite of the pre-trib Rapture view that claims the taken are believers.
In 2 Peter 2:5, we see Noah as preserved, kept, spared, etc., from the impending judgment of the flood. This is our example. Noah went through the flood but was spared the judgment of the flood (i.e., spared God’s wrath).
It shouldn’t escape anyone’s observation that believers and unbelievers will continue to live and co-exist together on earth until the Second Advent. The important knowledge to grasp right now is that believers will be in the “ark” with Christ during the ending wrath period. At the final outpouring of God’s wrath, we will be in the “clouds” according to Paul while we are snatched from the impending doom upon the earth.
and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. — 1 Thessalonians 1:10
Why Will We Wait on Earth?
Let’s look at several passages that speak of the same concept. Believers will wait on earth for Christ to come, not be taken to Heaven. Christ brings Heaven to earth with all the benefits.
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
— Hebrews 9:27–28
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. — 1 Corinthians 4:5
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
— Romans 8:23
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. — Titus 2:11–13
Now we have received spiritual salvation based on the first advent, as verse 11 of Titus 2 implies. We are not yet ultimately saved; we must wait for the blessed hope mentioned in verse 13. The blessed hope is Christ’s “appearing,” which is His physical return in the future. Christ’s appearing will let us see Him with our eyes; this is the Parousia, the moment when physical salvation comes. The term “glory” will be examined later to further describe its meaning in relation to Christ’s appearing.
The main point to consider in this Titus passage is that God has brought salvation to us at the First Advent, while we wait for ultimate salvation: the future appearing of Christ.
No Person Can Know “The Day and the Hour”?
Matthew 24:36 states that no person can know “the day and the hour” of Christ’s Second Advent. Many people inflate the concept of imminence to mean that Christ’s return will be a total surprise to believers. This inflation adjusts all other passages about timing, insisting that the entire timetable is unknowable.
A pre-tribulational Rapture is built upon this imminence foundation. Private interpretation of this one verse has built a whole industry of end-time beliefs. Instead of looking up the source of “the day and the hour” from a Hebrew perspective, some people just assume this to mean that Christ could come back at any moment. It seems necessary to have the element of complete surprise.
The expression may come from a Hebrew idiom that refers to spotting the new moon; the general timing is known but not the exact timing until it is actually witnessed. More specifically to end times, the phrase refers to a bridegroom coming for his bride at the end of the betrothal. The father of the groom sets the exact time for when the couple’s dwelling place will be ready. This means the bride knows the general timing (or season) but not the details of the day. The bride and her family only know the groom is coming in about one year, so they can prepare themselves for the approximate arrival timeline.
Another view based on a more correct English translation is that no one “perceives” the day and the hour; in the perfect-tense use of the word, nothing has happened yet. Knowledge comes by perception (of the signs). The signs are to come first, and then we can know or perceive. The angels don’t know when the signs will start either.
What Does “Thief in the Night” Mean?
A related topic to the “day and the hour” is the Thief in the Night. Both terms are foundational to a pre-trib Rapture in relation to a surprise return of Christ. However, there is no surprise since Christ, together with the prophets and apostles, laid out the signs for us. The takeaway of the Thief in the Night is to be prepared. There will be no surprise for believers.
1 Thessalonians 5:2 says “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” At first glance, we may assume this supports the imminence interpretation of the Day and the Hour passage regarding the surprise of Christ coming again. However, a couple of lines later in verse 4, Paul states believers will not be surprised (unprepared) that day.
But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.
There is no need for the warning of verse 2 if believers are taken away from the Great Tribulation Period. As shown in many passages, we the bride must be prepared; this is a key concept. An entire belief system about the pre-trib Rapture tries to justify itself based on isolated verses like Matthew 24:36 or 1 Thessalonians 5:2 without looking into the relationships with other passages about the subject of preparedness based upon the signs.
The Sign of the Fig Tree
From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he [Christ] is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. — Matthew 24:32-34
Christ gave us an easy analogy to consider with the fig tree. This was written for believers to be prepared. When the signs ramp up towards the last days, He wants us to know the end is near because we will be on earth dealing with the events mentioned earlier in Matthew 24.
The fig tree example makes little sense if believers are raptured before the Great Tribulation Period, since they would not need to worry about the effects coming after the signs. In Matthew 24, Christ made clear warnings to the elect that will be on earth, so we should know that this chapter is focused on giving us knowledge to be prepared for the end times.
And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. — Matthew 24:22-27
This Generation Will Not Pass
What does “generation” mean in context? Matthew 24:34 states that this “generation” will not pass until statements (prophecies) made by Christ in Matthew 24 are realized. If we use Matthew to interpret Matthew, we notice that the word “generation” appears several times. Matthew 23:36 is a good example: “Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”
The verses directly preceding Matthew 23:36 speak to fathers and sons over a very long time period, not just the people listening to Christ at that moment. In this instance, “generation” refers to those who killed the prophets throughout the nation’s history.
So we see that “generation” in Matthew chapters 23 and 24 does not mean a 30 to 40-year cluster of people, but refers to a group of people over a vast period. Matthew 24:34 should not be used to calculate timing; a likelier interpretation is that the people of Israel will continue to exist until the end times, since they will see the events firsthand.
What Does “Meet the Lord in the Air” Mean?
Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
— 1 Thessalonians 4:17
Paul does not specify whether we will go to some celestial realm or back to earth to be with Christ in this passage, but there are some other important details here that we can compare with other passages.
The Greek root translated “to meet” fits our normal English usage of the phrase. To meet someone at the door is to welcome them into a building. To meet someone for dinner may involve going to a restaurant that is halfway between the parties involved.
So is Christ coming to meet us halfway on our trip from earth to Heaven? Or are the living believers rising to meet Christ on his way from Heaven to earth? In related Matthew 25:6 and Acts 28:15 “meeting” passages using the same Greek root word, there is a return to the starting point after the meeting. And in the 1 Thessalonians 4:17 passage, the point of reference is Paul’s position, not Christ’s position. Christ will come to raise and transform saints on earth.
Why would Christ bring the spirits of dead saints to earth if they are all going back to Heaven? Wouldn’t we just meet them there?
All Eyes Will See Christ’s Return
Uses of related “optic” and “epiphany” root words convey physical eyes involved to see Him when He arrives. Passages such as Matthew 24:30, Luke 17:24 and Luke 17:30 convey a physical appearance of Christ. All end-time events revolve around a physical Second Advent and Resurrection that everyone will see.
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
Advent = “appearing.” Appearing in relation to the Second Advent often uses Parousia from the Greek language. Christ’s “coming” translated into English means a special appearance. The Second Advent is like a royal event where all eyes will see.
Considering all passages related to the Second Advent, “appearing” is understood as the term used after His Resurrection (see Luke 24:34 and Acts 1:3). It is very important to realize that Christ physically rose from the dead just as Thomas proved (John 20:26-27). This is because we will be transformed to have a body like Christ’s, not a spirit body that is unknown in Scripture.
We should also consider Acts 1:11 as the prime example of Christ’s return. This is perhaps the simplest explanation of the Second Advent. When believers see or meet Christ in the air, we will all reign on Earth at that time as based on the context of verse 6. The remaining Promised Land prophecies of Israel are fulfilled when Heaven comes to earth.
So when they [disciples] had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes,and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
— Acts 1:6-11
We know from other passages that the Resurrection is tied to the Second Advent, but we should also know it is the beginning of the reigning on earth period that the disciples were still looking for in Acts 1:6. This is why Christ needs to come back to earth so He can dwell with us in Person and fulfill all remaining prophecies.
Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. — Revelation 20:6
When is the Rapture?
Timing is everything. Instead of looking at more difficult passages, let’s look at the clearest passage about timing. “Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the Resurrection on the last day.’” — John 11:24
When is “the last day”? We won’t find the full answer in this short verse, but we start to get a sense that the end of the age is tied to the return of Christ. Passages regarding the advent of Christ are often derived from the Greek word Parousia, translated as His “coming.” This word is a noun, not a verb, so it is an event. Even though Christ is continually with us now, through the Holy Spirit, there is something different about His physical appearance in the future with numerous features that we will research further.
Jesus states that the sound of his voice at the Second Advent precedes the Resurrection of the Just (the inauguration of the gift of eternal life). His voice calls people out of the grave (like Lazarus; see John 11:43-44). It should be noted that the righteous receive the salvation gift of life as a reward. Christ returns, the dead hear his voice, and the Resurrection is underway.
Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the Resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the Resurrection of judgment.” — John 5:28–29
Does the Rapture Occur at the Second Advent or a Secret Event?
Two of the most discussed prophetic events are the Rapture and the Second Advent. But how else do they relate to one another, and can we be sure they take place at the same time? Let’s explore the Old Testament and New Testament prophecies predicting the concurrence of the Rapture with the Second Advent of Christ.
Thirty-six (36) different Second Advent passages will be examined with a focus on aligning repeated themes and elements to obtain the prize that awaits completion of this study.
“Rapture” and “Resurrection” at the Second Coming are related terms since the Resurrection of the dead occurs at the Rapture. However, Rapture has a broader meaning. Rapture means to be “snatched” in salvation terms within eschatology (i.e., “grabbed” by Christ to be saved from fire or death). There is no event found in the biblical text where the salvation of living saints on earth at Christ’s coming is separated in time from salvation of departed saints.
A “post-trib” Rapture also means that salvation occurs at the Second Advent, except it’s associated with the end of the 3.5-year Great Tribulation Period mentioned in Daniel and Revelation. It is fulfillment of being saved today – 2 Corinthians 5:1-5, Ephesians 1:13-14.
Key Relationships to the Second Advent
We can better understand the Second Advent when it is linked with the Rapture and other events of this period. We will have a better appreciation for the last days of this age upon closer examination of 36 passages that have integrated elements as part of one major series of rapid events.
Combined Elements During the 2nd Coming
Second Advent – This is the primary event that drives everything else. It is explicitly mentioned in most of the 36 passages referenced in this article. It is sometimes implied if there is enough related evidence to qualify as an indirect reference.
Rapture – This previously defined term is not always mentioned in the 36 Second Advent passages, but is included in 39% of them. The word “Rapture” in English is never used since this is derived from an old Latin root word. However, we will use “Rapture” when salvation passages are mentioned adjacent to the Second Coming (Rapture = transformation of the living together with the Resurrection of the dead when Christ appears next time).
Judgment – There are a few types of judgment that occur at the Second Advent. The judgment of the just and the judgment of the unjust as individuals are described in most cases, but destructive judgment upon groups is also stated.
Physical Appearance – These passages describe a bodily return of Christ to earth that will be witnessed by people’s eyes. This is a physical rendering, not spiritual or figurative eyesight. Examples of the First Advent (Luke 24:34, Acts 1:3) are like the Second Advent regarding a physical presence after the resurrection.
Clouds – The glory of the Lord described in the Old Testament (Exodus 16:10) is magnified in the New Testament by depicting Christ’s return in glory on, in and with clouds. Literal and figurative uses of the term can be examined in 7 of the 36 passages that state “clouds” at the Second Advent.
Angels or Armies – There are five passages that describe a warlike group of angels that accompany Christ upon His return to earth.
Angels Gathering or Separating – There are five other passages that describe angels, not as warlike but as gathering the saints or separating the wicked. This totals 10 of 36 passages that depict angels coming with Christ in two distinct ways.
Trumpet – Sometimes there is a Trumpet sound mentioned at the Second Advent.
Voice or Command – Christ will speak audibly at His return. In all cases, His voice initiates the Rapture, to transform the living or resurrect the dead. This was foreshadowed by the Resurrection of Lazarus where Christ spoke towards his tomb (John 11:43).
Tribulation – Several passages state Christ’s return after a tribulation period. There is not one passage in the Bible that states any secretive or physical appearance of Christ before tribulation. He always comes at the end. Spiritual appearances of Christ into a person’s heart are not in an eschatological context, so these passages are not considered as end-time related.
Destruction of the Wicked – 16 of 36 passages state that Christ (or angels with Christ) repays the unjust for their wicked deeds. Some passages state salvation for the just and punishment for the unjust during the same period of His recompense when He arrives.
Passages of the Second Coming of Christ
All passages with a direct reference to the Second Coming are listed in this article throughout each section to follow such as Judgment or Christ Coming with Angels. These 36 passages are connected to the Second Advent and have eleven associated sub-events that occur during its timing. Click Here to see the free table of these passages.
Passages of the Rapture at the Second Coming
Job 19:25-27, Isaiah 26:19-21, Daniel 12 (2nd Advent mentioned in previous chapters), John 5:21-29, John 6:39-40, 1 Corinthians 15:12-28, 1 Corinthians 15:50-53, 1 Thessalonians 3:13 (implied), 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, Philippians 3:10-21, Hebrews 9:27-28 (implied), 1 Peter 1:3-9, 1 John 2:28-3:2 (implied), Revelation 11:15-18 (implied)
Passages of the Physical Appearance of Christ
Passages About Judgment for the Just
Daniel 7:9-27, Daniel 12 (implied), Matthew 13:36-43, Matthew 16:27, Matthew 25:31-46, John 5:21-29, 1 Corinthians 4:5, 1 Thessalonians 3:13, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, 1 Timothy 6:13-16 (implied), 2 Timothy 4:1-8, Philippians 3:10-21, Hebrews 9:27-28, 1 Peter 1:3-9, 1 Peter 5:4, Revelation 11:15-18, Revelation 22:12
Passages About Judgment Against the Unjust
Daniel 7:9-27, Daniel 12 (implied), Matthew 13:36-43, Matthew 16:27, Matthew 25:31-46, John 5:21-29, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, Jude 1:14-15, Revelation 19:11-21, Revelation 22:12
Passages with Clouds Depicted at Christ’s Return
Passages with Angels / Armies Accompanying Christ
Passages of Angels Gathering the Righteous or Separating the Unjust
Passages with a Trumpet at the Rapture, or a Trumpet at Judgment Day
Passages about Christ Arriving after Tribulation
Passages about Destruction of the Wicked at the Second Coming
Isaiah 26:19-21, Daniel 2:31-45, Daniel 7:9-27, Daniel 12 (implied), Matthew 13:36-43, Matthew 25:31-46, Luke 17:22-37, 1 Corinthians 15:12-28, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, Philippians 3:10-21, Jude 1:14-15, Revelation 11:15-18, Revelation 14:14-20, Revelation 17:14, Revelation 19:11-21
All 36 of these passages connect to each other by sharing eleven parts of the ending chapter of history. There is no passage referenced that states Christ will come again without using at least one of the other eleven associations. For example, He comes “with His angels” or He comes “to judge.” Related elements show up from 8% to 45% of these 36 Second Advent passages.
Three is the lowest number of Second Advent characteristics that are associated (8%). This is Christ’s voice at His coming (mentioned 3 times out of 36 passages). There are always identifiers that help explain Christ’s return. No passage states that He simply “comes to save us in the end” without any details.
The highest numbers are the Rapture at 14, Destruction of the Wicked at 16 and a positive Judgment of the Just at 17 of 36 passages.
In statistics, there are compounding relationship formulas that make the likelihood of a single sequence of end-time events the logical conclusion. It is nearly impossible that there are two separate destructions of the wicked or two separate reward judgments at two separate advents of Christ. A tough challenge for the pre-trib Rapture view is to explain an initial Resurrection at this secret Rapture, then a different Resurrection event at the Second Coming. No text supports this.
This is not an article about math, but we will look at base logic. For example, in 1 Corinthians 4:5 there is the Second Advent depicted with judgment in favor of the saints. It is specifically stated that this reward judgment occurs after He comes.
Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and willdisclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
While angels are not mentioned in 1 Corinthians 4:5, we should not overlook that they are associated near the time of rewards for the righteous in other passages. In Matthew 16:27 the Second Advent is described with judgment and with an accompaniment of angels.
For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.
There are slight variations of Christ coming with or without angels, yet it is the same event.
We also see outright statements arguing the Second Coming is a good thing for saints but a bad thing for the unrighteous. Are we to believe they are discrete events or different angels?
The next passage in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 makes the case for a single event even clearer.
and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angelsin flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who havebelieved, because our testimony to you was believed.
Here we see in 2 Thessalonians 1 that the wicked are punished, and that there is relief for the saints at the same time of Christ’s glorification (“that day”). We should realize accompanying angels and judgment in relation to each other within the entire biblical context, even if a passage such as 1 Corinthians 4:5 does not specifically state something like angels. This same correlation effect is magnified over 36 passages.
The other option we face is that there are at least two accompaniments of angels, two uses of Trumpets, etc., until there is a force of multiple returns of Christ. This is a paramount question to answer. Is Christ coming back once or more than once? Let’s stick with Hebrews 9:27-28.
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerlywaiting for him.
To honor the words of Hebrews 9:28, some who believe in a pre-trib Rapture feel that Christ does not physically, technically, come back to earth within this Rapture view. He hangs out in the “air” so a belief in only one Second Coming to earth holds true for them. However, since the elements of a pre-trib Rapture may be shared between other passages, adherents need to explain two sets of judgments, two sets of clouds, etc. Logic does not lead us to a conclusion of two or more of any elements, or two events.
Some of these passages identified only state one or two sub-events within the Second Advent. Christ coming to earth is the major thrust where something like a voice command and clouds are small parts of the overall episode. It is more revealing with passages like Daniel 7, Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 4 that include several parts of the whole.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up [snatched] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
This interesting description of the Second Advent gives the mind plenty of grist for thought, including Christ’s command, an archangel, a Trumpet, clouds, and the Resurrection of the saints (who are separated from the other dead) along with the salvation of living saints at the Rapture. This is 5 out of 11 aspects that are associated with each other. Daniel 7 also has 5 of the 11 aspects.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, 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. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Once we realize that there is only one set of clouds, one Trumpet and one of everything else, we can be reassured of end-time sequencing. In Matthew 24, Christ states He will come after the Day of the Lord signs that are “immediately after the tribulation.” This is further corroborated by 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. Paul explains that history’s greatest antichrist will be revealed before Christ comes again, which he states the timing of the Rapture is also after the Antichrist.
The future Antichrist is active during the Great Tribulation Period. Christ comes after this tribulation at the time of the destruction of the Antichrist and the rest of the wicked (a common theme with 16 out of 36 passages stating the same concept of destruction of the wicked).
Determining the Sequence of End-Time Events
We can assemble an order of events now that we have examined several passages. The primary goal for timing is to answer the question about the sequence related to the Second Coming. Since an alignment of key phrases is prevalent, and there does not seem to be any reason to believe in a third appearing of Christ, it is reasonable to believe there is the following high-level order:
Signs of the End – The fig tree analogy from Matthew 24:32-33 is a great basis. Initial signs warn us about the beginning of the end, then they ramp up. There are many end-time signs mentioned throughout the Bible, especially in Day of the Lord passages like the 6th seal in Revelation 6:12-17. This seal renews prophecies from the Old Testament like people hiding in caves to avoid wrath (originally predicted in Isaiah 2:19-21). Tribulation escalates from the 1st seal to the 6th seal when wrath outpouring begins.
Antichrist is revealed before the Day of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3) – the Great Tribulation Period leads to wars and troubles for the saints as shown in Daniel 7:25-26, Revelation 12:17, Revelation 17:14 and these similar passages:
Daniel 7:21-22b As I looked, this horn [antichrist] made war with the saints and prevailed over them, until the Ancient of Days came…
Revelation 13:7-8 Also it [beast] was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.
Armageddon – The last battle of this age assembles at the 6th Trumpet and 6th Bowl periods of Revelation 9:13-20 and Revelation 16:12-16. The 6th seal is opened prior to the assembly to allow the Day of the Lord events with wrath pouring out on the wicked. We see Isaiah 13:4-13 and Joel 3:11-16 referencing the same 6th seal signs and the gathering of nations against the Lord. Armageddon is associated with the end of the Day of the Lord and concludes at Christ’s Advent.
Christ’s Advent – There are many sub-events that occur within this same period to demonstrate that there is only one more appearance of Christ in the future.
Rapture – the righteous are saved from impending doom – 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10. There is no verse combining the rapture with the second advent in Revelation, but Revelation 17:14 points to the saints already being with Christ when destruction of the wicked occurs at the final battle.
Key Events at the End of the Tribulation Period
We can’t be so caught up in trying to ascribe meaning that we confuse the Great Tribulation Period with general tribulation. When we’re looking for passages relating to the Great Tribulation Period, we find a key one in Matthew 24:21:
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.
The hard part is separating the Great Tribulation Period with the overlap in the Day of the Lord. However, it is easier to align everything if we focus our attention on “wrath.”
Romans 2:5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed (The “day” of wrath does not necessarily refer to a single day of 24 hours.)
The Bowl judgments of Revelation are the wrath of God during the Day of the Lord. In Revelation 16:1-2, we see the first Bowl of wrath being poured out. It is poured upon those with the Mark of the Beast. We know this is during the Great Tribulation Period after the Antichrist has been revealed based upon Revelation 13.
In Revelation 16:10-16 we notice the 5th and 6th Bowl judgments being poured out upon the beast’s kingdom and the gathering at Armageddon.
The 7th Bowl is when wrath is complete (inferred as the end of Armageddon based upon the 6th Bowl’s reference). We will be protected with Christ in that battle. Christ defeats all enemies at the time of God’s final wrath being poured out is completed.
Revelation 16:17 The seventh angel poured out his Bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!”
Please note that from the 1st Bowl to the last, the timing overlaps the Great Tribulation Period with the Mark of the Beast and when the Antichrist is active. This means the wrath period, which is also called the Day of the Lord, is congruent with the Great Tribulation for a long period of time.
The Day of the Lord stretches out, but the end of the Day of the Lord occurs rapidly when Christ comes to earth as His vengeance is swift. This concept begins with a prophecy in the Song of Moses, then follows in progression throughout Isaiah and until the end of Revelation.
Vengeance is mine, and recompense,
for the time when their foot shall slip;
for the day of their calamity is at hand,
and their doom comes swiftly.
Now that we have seen the order of events in Revelation, we know that the Rapture is linked to the Second Advent after the 7th Seal is opened and after the 7th Trumpet announces Christ’s return. The 7th Bowl completes the Day of the Lord at Armageddon. Remember, Revelation is not written in chronological order, so hopefully the timeline chart is helpful to sort out the chapters (or see this video of the timeline chart on the videos page).
We are shown that after the 7th Trumpet is blown, Christ will officially reign physically on the earth.
Then the seventh angel blew his Trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” — Revelation 11:15
We also notice that God’s wrath is complete after the 7th Trumpet. This means that the 7th Bowl that was poured out in Revelation 16 is being associated to this timeframe.
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
and begun to reign.
The nations raged,
but your wrath came,
and the time for the dead to be judged,
and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints,
and those who fear your name,
both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”
It is important to know the verb tenses used in Revelation 11 and the timing that links the important events of the Rapture. Notice that Christ has “begun” to reign (i.e. physically on earth). Also, notice that the wrath of God “came” beforehand, in relation to the 7th Trumpet.
Revelation 11 also states more connections we learned earlier with the 11 elements of the Second Advent –
- The saints are rewarded after Christ comes to earth, as we just saw in Revelation 11:18.
- The dead are judged after Christ comes, as also found in verse 18.
- The wicked are destroyed after Christ comes; this is Armageddon.
Since we did an extensive study of 36 end-time passages, we can be confident in the meaning and timing of Revelation 11:17-18. Judgment, rewards and Christ conquering the wicked were all mentioned in these numerous passages we examined. These are all tied to the Second Advent and Rapture. We should now be more confident that Revelation is non-linear in its timing since Revelation 11’s final Trumpet and Revelation 16’s final Bowl are within close timing to each other.
Based on the previous connections we looked at, and since we know the saints are with Christ in the last battle mentioned in Revelation 17:14, we can be confident that the Rapture occurs at the end of the wrath period, after the last Trumpet.
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. — Revelation 19:11
And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. — Revelation 19:14-15
In Revelation 19, we see angels coming with Christ at the Second Advent. This is a common theme found in 5 of the 36 passages we examined where angels go after the wicked. We also notice the wrath of God is completed at Armageddon with the winepress analogy that comes at the end of the Harvest. The nations that gather, as referenced in the 6th Bowl of Revelation 16:14-16, are the same group of nations mentioned in Revelation 19. There are not two different battles that Christ or the angels are part of.
Revelation 14:14-20 depicts details about the time of the Harvest when Christ comes with His angels. This is the same Harvest as the parable of the Wheat and the Tares of Matthew 13:36-43 when the angels separate the wicked and take them away. The winepress of Revelation 19 is at the time of the Harvest, when the earth is ripe for completing the age that we now live in.
Here are more passages that show Christ comes only once more with His angels like we saw earlier in 2 Thessalonians 1. These relate to the timing of the Rapture, at the end of the Great Tribulation Period, at the time of the Harvest. He returns in “glory” with His angels.
For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. — Matthew 16:27
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, 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. And he will send out his angels with a loud Trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. — Matthew 24:29-31
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
— Matthew 25:31-32
Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him. — Jude 1:14b-15
Timing and Duration of the Second Coming
A related study reveals how quickly Christ appears from the initial signs to when He finally comes at the Second Advent. We know the tribulation period is years long, but there are many passages that state Christ deals out punishment and saves the saints quickly. The duration always seems short since there are no references to drawn out battles. He speaks, and the wicked fall in a short breath. See 2 Thessalonians 2:8, Revelation 14:15-16, Revelation 17:14 and Revelation 19:19-21.
We have examined many reasons that timing and other complexities have challenged us to understand the book of Revelation and the Second Advent. By scratching the surface of textual comparison, we can be confident that the entire Bible is integrated to show common themes about the most important time outside of creation, the culmination of time. When we go back to the other references, we know more about Christ’s return, especially why He is coming.
Hebrews 9:26b But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
We should revisit the following verses in Hebrews 9:27-28. Verse 26 reports the First Advent, while verse 28 states He “will appear a second time.” Within three verses, we find the difference between the advents.
We know the writer(s) of Hebrews stated we are living in the “last days” since Christ’s ascension (Hebrews 1:1-2). The only way we will know when we are at the end of the last days is by the signs.
David is still waiting for Christ to defeat all enemies so he can be resurrected (Acts 2:34-35). Abraham is waiting as well (Hebrews 11:13-16). This is why resting and waiting are widely used terms for the departed saints. However, there will be a huge party in the next age of Heaven on earth when we sit with the Patriarchs.
I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, — Matthew 8:11
Is there an east or west in Heaven? Yes. Heaven comes to earth.
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. — Revelation 21:2-3
Only the elect will be with Christ in the next age.
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. — Revelation 22:12-15
Summary of the Most Important End-Time Events
Resurrection of the dead – a bodily transformation like Christ’s (Philippians 3:21)
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. — 1 Corinthians 15:22-24
Please visit this link to download a free PDF of the 36 passages related to the 2nd Advent and Rapture.
© 2022 by K.J. Soze
“Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.” All scripture quotes in italics.
All bold-face type within Scripture quotations has been added by the author for emphasis.
Click Here to view the video version of this article.