The Timing: At the Second Coming

There are five events prophesied as occurring at and as an immediate result of the second coming of Christ. These are the eschatological events which are next on the historical horizon. As such, they are tremendously important, and should not be trivialized. Many churches preach about these events, but seem to emphasize other things.

The Parousia

Christ will reverse his ascension to heaven, and appear in the sky just as he had disappeared.[1] It will be his physical presence (Greek παρουσία “parousia”) instead of his physical absence.[2] Many speak of this coming of Christ as being secret or silent, but Christ described it as a sudden, unexpected, worldwide cataclysmic event.[3] Notice the elements of the actual coming of Christ that he points out in his Olivet discourse:

  1. He will come like lightning.
  2. The Sun will darken.
  3. The Moon will eclipse.
  4. Stars will fall.
  5. Heavenly bodies will shake.
  6. Nations will mourn.
  7. Angels will be sent with a loud trumpet call.
  8. Men will faint from terror.
  9. The Elect will be gathered.

That does not sound like an event anyone is likely to miss. Jesus had been asked for a sign by his disciples. They did not want to miss his return. Jesus taught them that, unlike his first coming as a babe in a manger, this one would not be secret. All the world will know. For Christ to be any more specific as to the timing of his παρουσία would be to defeat its purpose. It is supposed to catch the world off guard. It is to be sudden, like the coming of a thief.[4] The church must be prepared for the παρουσία at any time.[5]

The First Resurrection

Christ’s first priority when he comes is to raise the dead in him. Paul spoke of the order of the harvest, where Christ’s resurrection was the firstfruits, and the second stage is “at his coming those who belong to Christ.”[6] This was Paul’s hope, to be among those raised from the dead.[7] John called this the first resurrection, and spoke of those who experience it as blessed.[8] Although dead now, those who are raised at Christ’s return are blessed because Christ will revive them, and they will never experience death again. Paul describes the event this way: “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.”[9] It is the first thing of Jesus’ to-do list when he comes.

The Rapture

His next task is to transform those in Christ who are still living so that they, too, have immortality and are fit for eternity with him. Paul says “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.”[10] Paul expected to be among this group, but we know now that he will be among the first. Regardless, both groups will become one, as we are caught up (raptured) into the air to meet with Jesus.

Armageddon

Meanwhile, back on earth, World War ? has broken out. The demons and people who have not bowed the knee to Christ are suddenly left in charge of a world without redeemed humanity. Angels from heaven have been summoned by a trumpet blast to wage war against them. The nations mourn because it becomes clear that Christ has come, and they were all left behind. Nations fear because natural disasters are creating chaos everywhere.[11] Demonically controlled leaders seek to unite this population for this battle, which is worldwide, but has a focal point at the mountain (Hebrew har) of Megiddo.[12] The world will be caught unprepared, and sudden destruction will come upon them.[13]

The Wedding Supper of the Lamb

Meanwhile, back in the air, the Bride of the Lamb is celebrating her wedding feast with her Bridegroom. This feast does not take place in heaven. It is the wedding feast celebrating the reunion of Christ and his church. He has come for us, not to bring us to heaven, but to rule with us on earth. But before the king and queen co-rule, the wedding must occur.

We will be as we are now, only perfected, since the Bible teaches that “when he appears we shall be like him.”[14] Perfection meets perfection in a wedding unlike any other in all the ages. The wedding gifts include the “the unfading crown of glory”[15] No shame will ever attach itself to us again. When he appears in his glory, we will appear in glory with him.[16]

By Rev. Jefferson Vann

(Rev. Jefferson Vann is a graduate of Berkshire Christian College, Columbia International University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He and his wife Penny have been involved in Advent Christian ministry since 1984, serving as missionaries in the Philippines and New Zealand. Jeff is the author of “An Advent Christian Systematic Theology” and “Another Bible Commentary” and is a contributing editor to “Henceforth …”)

References

[1] Acts 1:11.[2] παρουσία “parousia” combines the prefix para (alongside) and the noun ousia (substance, presence).[3] Matthew 24:23-31; Mark 13:21-27; Luke 21:25-27; 34-36.

[4] 2 Peter 3:3-13.

[5] Matthew 25.

[6] 1 Corinthians 15:23, ESV.

[7] Romans 6:5; Philippians 3:10, 20-21.

[8] Revelation 20:5-6.

[9] 1 Thessalonians 4:16, ESV.

[10] 1 Thessalonians 4:17, ESV.

[11] Luke 21:25-26.

[12] Revelation 16:16.

[13] 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3.

[14] 1 John 3:2.

[15] 1 Peter 5:4.

[16] Colossians 3:4.

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