Throughout the entire Bible, prophecies one after another, speak of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the hope for humanity. The first was the incarnation and the second would be to establish His everlasting kingdom on Earth.
Christians who believe in a secret rapture see it differently. They claim He will return in two phases. The first of these two interventions is to rapture the church; the second is to rescue Israel from the terrible reign of the anti-Christ and establish His millennial kingdom on Earth.
However, they don’t realize while the end time tribulation will affect the whole planet it won’t affect each nation the same way. Why? Bible prophecies indicate the brunt of the tribulation will be felt in Judea. God “will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem,” (Zech 12:2; 14; 2). Revelation also tells us “the gentiles will tread the holy city (Jerusalem) underfoot for forty-two months,” (Rev. 11:2). The time of great tribulation Jesus spoke about in the Olivet Prophecy pertains particularly to “those who are in Judah,” (Matt. 24:16, 21) though the effects are not restricted in that area.
As we see happen in the days of Noah “eating, drinking and given-in marriage” continued right up to the day Noah entered the ark. In other words, life can go on while terrible things are happening on the Earth. It is careless to assume the coming of Matt. 24:30 occurs at a time different from that of Matt. 24:36-44, as believers in the rapture teach.
The order of events described in the Olivet prophecy is as follows:
- Spectacular heavenly signs immediately following “the tribulation of those days,” (verse 29).
- The “sign of the Son of Man” appears, the nations mourn, and Christ is seen “coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory,” (verse 30).
- Christ sends His angels to gather the elect, (verse 31).
The next move is Christ tells His followers “these things” i.e. the heavenly signs, the sign of the Son of man and His appearance in the clouds of heaven, will signal the end. “When you see these things know that it is near, at the very doors,” verse 33).
What is the “it” that is near when “these things begin to happen.” Luke answers that in his parallel account, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads because your redemption draws near,” (Luke 21:28). Also… “when you see these things happening know the kingdom of God is near,” (verse 31). Note both the redemption of the saints and the establishment of God’s kingdom are near when “these things,” the heavenly signs, Christ’s appearance etc., start to occur.
Christ also speaks of the “day and the hour” of His return. It’s not about two phases. “But of the day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only,” (verse 36). Christ tells us in Luke 21:34 to be prepared keep a constant “watch” rather than being overtaken by the cares of the world.
If the “day and hour” of verse 36 refers to the time of the “coming” Jesus described (verse 30), and it obviously does, then the “coming of the Son of man” described in verses 37-44 is the same “coming.” As prophecies about the Second Coming indicate, Christ returns only once, not in two phases. He comes to gather His saints and destroy the Antichrist, and it occurs “after the tribulation of those days” and the shaking of the “powers of heaven.”
To support their teaching, believers of a pre-tribulation rapture must place the “coming” described later in the text before the “coming” described earlier. If their theory is correct, the gathering of the elect (verse 31) cannot refer to the resurrection of the saints from all past ages because they have that event happening several years earlier, but must refer to the gathering of a separate class of believers called “tribulation saints” a term invented to support the rapture.
Trying to make a secret rapture fit into the Olivet Prophecy is like re-arranging a jigsaw puzzle-it cannot be done without seriously distorting the pieces. It requires making one coming into two, reversing the order of the text, separating the “elect” from the church of history, and assuming the tribulation and the ordinary pleasures and activities of life cannot exist at the same time. The prophets of old, the New Testament writers and Jesus Christ, speak on a Second Coming, no two phases or a third coming for that matter. More on this important subject in the coming weeks. In the meantime, download our FREE booklet SHOULD YOU EXPECT A SECRET RAPTURE?