“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;”
The glorious appearing of Jesus marks the beginning of the end of the world as we know it. John wrote that, “when [Christ] shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is”(1 John 3:2). When the Lord appears, He will snatch us away and transform our mortal bodies into glorified creations fashioned like His own glorified body (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; Philippians 3:20-21). The question is, when on God’s prophetic calendar does this stupendous event occur? We know that there will be a final 7-year period in which the world will experience unprecedented tribulation at the hands of Satan’s masterpiece, the Antichrist (Daniel 9:24-27; Mark 13:19; Revelation 6-19). Will Christ’s church be on the earth during that time or will we be snatched away and glorified before that awful time? It seems to me there are excellent reasons to believe the church will not be here for “the great tribulation.” Rather, we will be in that place the Lord has gone to prepare for us (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; John 14:1-3). First, we know He returns to rule the earth exactly 1,260 days after a blasphemous image is set up in the Temple (Matthew 24:15-16; Revelation 11:2; 12:6; 13:4-5, 14-15). In other places, however, we are told the day of His coming is a mystery (Matthew 24:44; 25:13; Mark 13:34-37). This “unknown” day may refer to the “rapture” of the church. Second, we are told that we will receive our rewards for service when Christ appears (2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4; Luke 14:14). In Revelation 4-6, we see what appears to be the church, seated, robed, and crowned in heaven, prior to the great tribulation. Third, when Christ appears to reign and rule, He will assemble the peoples before Him and divide believers from non-believers (Matthew 25:31-41). Since the rapture would accomplish this division instantly, it stands to reason the rapture will not take place at the end of the tribulation. Fourth, during the Kingdom Age there will be a population explosion (Revelation 20; Isaiah 49:19-20; Zechariah 8:3-5). Since those with glorified bodies will not be having children (Matthew 22:30), the rapture cannot take place at the end of the tribulation. Lastly, it makes no sense to suppose God would have two competing religious programs operating at the same time. Since the last seven years include a God-ordained Temple program with animal sacrifices, it is reasonable to suppose the church would have been raptured before that time. In the light of our blessed hope, let us emulate the faithful Thessalonians, who “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1Thessalonians 1:9-10). Walk strong, dear saints, and be encouraged!
God bless you,