|By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©1996|
|Bible Prophecy Questions Answered by Leading Christian Scholars.|
Dr. John Ankerberg: Doesn’t the Rapture happen when Christ descends to the earth after the Tribulation? My answer is no. I believe there are at least seven important differences revealed in the Scripture which force us to conclude that the Rapture is a separate event from Christ’s Second Coming when He returns to earth to judge and rule. Let me quickly list the differences for you and then we will examine the Scriptures from which these differences derive. First, there is a difference in the geographical area or place where the Lord will come to meet believers. The Bible indicates that at the Rapture, Christians will meet the Lord in the air. But at the Second Coming, Christ descends to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
Second, the Bible indicates there is a difference in who removes people from earth at each event. At the Rapture, Christ Himself comes and takes believers out of the world; but at the Second Coming, Jesus sends His angels to gather people from the face of the earth to judgment.
Third, the Bible indicates there is a difference in who is taken from the earth and who is left at each event. At the Rapture, believers are taken from the earth, while unbelievers are left on the earth. But at the Second Coming, believers are left on the earth to go into the Millennial Kingdom, while unbelievers are taken from the earth to judgment.
Fourth, the Bible indicates there is a difference of when Jesus comes in relationship to the Tribulation. At the Rapture, Jesus comes before the hour of trial, the Tribulation, to rescue believers from it; whereas, at the Second Coming Jesus comes after the Tribulation to inflict final punishment, conquer His enemies and begin to rule the world from Jerusalem.
Fifth, the Bible indicates there is a difference in what believers are to look for in each event. There are no signs given in Scripture that must take place before the Rapture. But detailed signs are given that must take place before Christ will come to earth.
The sixth difference between these two events stems from the fact that in every Rapture passage there is no mention of trial or God’s judgments falling on the earth before the Rapture occurs. There is only the promise and admonition to believers to look for Christ’s return for His own. But on the other hand, every passage that deals with the Second Coming of Christ to earth is set in the context of tribulation and judgment. For example, Zechariah 14:1-2 tells us of a siege of Jerusalem taking place immediately before describing Christ’s return to earth to rule.
Seventh, the Bible indicates there is a difference in the timing of the resurrections that take place at each event. At the Rapture, a resurrection of the dead in Christ takes place during the descent of Christ. But at the Second Coming, a resurrection of the righteous dead who died during the Tribulation takes place only after Christ has descended to earth.
Now, if these seven differences are taught in the Scripture, it would be contradictory to hold that the Rapture of the church saints occurs at the same time as the Second Coming of Christ to earth. The only conclusion these scriptural differences will allow us to hold is that the Rapture must be a separate event from Christ’s Second Coming to earth.
1. Different geographic settings indicate two separate events or two phases to Jesus’ Second coming
· Rapture: Christ will descend to the air above the earth and Christians will be caught up to meet Him there. · Second Coming: Christ will descend to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem Dr. John Ankerberg: Where does the Bible teach that all Christians alive and dead will be caught up, or raptured, to meet the Lord in the air? 1 Thessalonians 4:17 tells us, "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." Where will Jesus take Christians at the Rapture? Jesus taught in John 14:2 that He will take us to Heaven. He said, "In my Father’s house are many mansions. The Father’s house is in Heaven. Jesus continues, "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 you may be also."
So these verses indicate Christians will meet Christ where? In the air. Where will Christ take us? To the Father’s house in Heaven.
But now compare these statements with Zechariah 14:3 where we are told: "Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as he fights in the day of battle. On that day, his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem." If we say that the Rapture and the Second Coming are the same event, then these verses would contradict each other in indicating where Christ is going to come. Is it to the air above the earth, or is it to Jerusalem where He will stand on the Mount of Olives?
To harmonize these passages, I believe the Scripture is demanding that we recognize there are two phases of Christ’s coming, two separate events. At the Rapture, Christ comes for His Church and we are caught up to meet Him in the air. Later, at His Second Coming, Christ descends to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem where He conquers His enemies and then begins to rule.