In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:52)
I am constantly amazed at how many Evangelical Christians, much less the rest of the world, have no interest in current events as related to end-times prophecy. One reason may be related to Jesus’ prediction of attitudes at the end times. “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:37-39). In context, Jesus was speaking to Jews, not Gentiles, and His prevision referred to His physical return to earth to set up His Millennial Kingdom. More on that later.
Many things took place prior to the flood which the Bible does not detail (Genesis 6:1-4). There are some who believe that some of that is taking place again, but that is a can of worms I choose not to open at this time. Jesus probably had those activities in mind, but the main point is that they carried on life as normal “until the flood came, and took them all away.” They were clueless just like the world today.
Even with all the signs God is clearly providing, the world (including many Christians) carries on with business as usual. Part of the problem is “the cares of this world” that “choke the word” of God so that “it becometh unfruitful” in the life of the individual (Mark 4:19). Perhaps another part of the problem is the glut of information out about end-times prophecy that confuses the casual student. Many opinions and contradictions may discourage the pursuit of this truth. Rather than getting excited about the Lord’s soon return, many take the attitude of “que será, será.”
However, the prospect of Jesus’ soon return (and I mean REALLY SOON), should be, for the believer, a source of excitement and anticipation. What greater hope can we have than to be in the presence of our Savior forever! Of course, for the non-believer, this information can be a source of dread, but there is a remedy. So I want to make this as simple as possible, by omitting “the weeds” where people often get lost.
First, Jesus promised He would return for His followers. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3, emphasis mine). This event is known as the Rapture of the Church. Jesus’ second coming is in two phases. First, Jesus comes to receive the Church (the body of believers) to be with Him forever. He does not come to earth at this time, and the rest of the world does not see Him. Only believers will be involved, but the “disappearances” will certainly create havoc around the world.
The Apostle Paul describes the Rapture in our leading verse. “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep [i.e., die], but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53, emphasis mine). To the church in Thessalonica, he wrote: “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [i.e., “go before”] them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, emphasis mine). The Greek word translated “caught up” is harpazō, which means “to seize, carry off by force” or “to snatch out or away.” That word is further translated into Latin as rapturo from which we get our word “rapture.”
Second, after the Church (also known as “the Bride”) is taken out of the world, there is a period of seven years that is known as “the Tribulation.” The prophet Daniel predicts this time (Daniel 9:27; 12:1-3). Jesus spoke of this time also, (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21:5-28). Almost the entire book of Revelation offers explicit details of what will take place at this time (Revelation 4-19). The Tribulation will be an awful time for the inhabitants of the earth. So terrible will be those days that Jesus said, “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:22). Those believers belonging to the Bride of Christ need not be concerned about going through the Tribulation. Our present concern should be for those who are lost and will go through the Tribulation. We who are “saved” will have to give an accounting of neglected opportunities to witness for Christ.
Third, at the end of the seven-year Tribulation, Jesus will return with His saints, His Bride, to set up His kingdom on Earth (Revelation 19:11-14). Many Old Testament prophecies speak of Messiah’s reign on earth. This is the reason the Jews missed Jesus’ first coming. They expected a king to rule over all the earth. They were not expecting a suffering Savior to come meekly and humbly only to die on a Roman cross. His earthly kingdom will last for 1000 years (Revelation 20:1-6). The prophet Isaiah speaks of the Eden-like conditions during Jesus’ reign (Isaiah 11).
Finally, at the end of the 1000 years, Satan is released from his prison for a very short time. He incites a rebellion against the King, which is short-lived for Satan and those who were foolish enough to follow him. Those that rebel are sent to “the lake of fire” for eternity (Revelation 20:7-15). After that, history ends, and God creates a “new heaven and a new earth” where His children will live with Him forever. Who knows what that will be like, but it has to be multiple millions of times better than what we know here on earth. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4). “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:3-5).
That is it! Time is short. There are many detailed “signs” taking place right now indicating Jesus’ soon return is very close at hand. Jesus said, “So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors” (Matthew 24:33, emphasis mine). We are seeing “these things.” Do what you need to do to get ready. If you know Jesus, tell others. If you don’t know Jesus, get to know Him; read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”