Jesus Tells us the Timing of the Rapture

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

[Matthew 24:29-30]

Is it true that nobody knows when Jesus will return?

Jesus even said so Himself, right? In Mark 13:32, the Lord says, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Did Jesus — who is God in human form — really just say that there are some things even He doesn’t know? If Jesus is God, then He is omniscient, which means that He knows all things and all possible things infinitely and perfectly. What about the Holy Spirit? Is it possible for God the Spirit not to know something?

I would say if the doctrine of the Triune nature of God is to be affirmed and believed, then both God the Son and God the Holy Spirit must know all things, even as God the Father knows all things. It is impossible for God not to know something. For any member of the Godhead — Father, Son or Spirit — to be ignorant of anything or lacking in any knowledge, then He effectively would cease to be God.

So if Jesus knows all things as the Son of God, what was He communicating when he said even He didn’t know the day or the hour of His return?

I believe this statement must be understood in the context of the temporary limitation Jesus embraced as the Son of Man, as He laid aside certain prerogatives of His divine nature during His earthly ministry in order to become fully human. Paul affirms this in Philippians 2:6-7, when he says that Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

So in essence, Jesus was saying that for that moment in time, bound by his human limitations, He was not at liberty to disclose to His disciples the exact day or hour of His return. It wasn’t the Father’s will for Jesus to tell the disciples the precise moment of His coming.

Let me be clear. Jesus knows exactly when He is going to return to this earth. It was for this purpose that He was born. How could He not know? He is God Eternal. Of course He knows the day and the hour of His return.

And though Jesus did not disclose the exact “day or hour” or His return, He did provide key elements of timing that allowed His disciples to know the general season of the second coming. In other words, Jesus didn’t give us an exact date on the calendar, but He promises all believers for all time that there will be a generation alive in the last days who will know when His coming is “near, even at the very gates” (Mark 13:29).

So Jesus continually reminds us to be sober, watchful, attentive, and to lift up our eyes, knowing that our redemption draws near.

Timing is Everything!

Jesus provides some critical elements of timing when describing the signs of the end times that lead up to His glorious return. When we harmonize what Jesus teaches in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21) with other key second-coming passages, we can know the timing of the rapture.

Contrary to the pre-tribulation position of the rapture, which teaches that we will have no indication of when Jesus comes to rapture His church, the Bible actually provides many clear signs and essential indicators that reveal when His return is near, even at the very gates.

Indicator #1 — The LASt TrumpET

“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” 

[1 Corinthians 15:51-52]

There are many significant second-coming/rapture passages that portray a trumpet motif. Paul in our passage above says that the rapture occurs “at the last trumpet.” So if we can distinguish the timing of the last trumpet, we can distinguish the timing of the rapture.

Here are other Scriptures that connect this trumpet motif with the second coming of the Lord Jesus.

“Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” 

And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying,

We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”

[Revelation 11:15-18]

Clearly this 7th trumpet in a series of trumpets is the last trumpet mentioned in Scripture, so it must coincide with the last trumpet that Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 15:51. After this trumpet is sounded, the Kingdom of Christ comes to earth in wrath to judge the nations, and He begins to reign at that moment. This is undoubtedly the return of Jesus and the last trumpet.

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. 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. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

[1 Thessalonians 4:16-18]

Again, Paul is drawing from the Olivet Discourse and the message of Jesus as he describes the return of the Lord, who will descend from heaven to earth with the sound of the trumpet of God! This is the last trumpet.

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

[Matthew 24:29-31]

Jesus confirms once again that the trumpet call of God is associated with His return in power and great glory. All of these passages agree and are clearly describing the same event. The logical conclusion follows …

  1. The Scripture teaches that the rapture of the church occurs at the last trumpet.
  2. The timing of the last trumpet is connected to the glorious return of Jesus Christ to earth to establish His kingdom.
  3. Therefore, the rapture of the church occurs simultaneously with the second coming of Jesus Christ at the end of the age.

Indicator #2 — Jesus coming Visibly ON the Clouds

“And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.

[Acts 1:9-11]

Not only does the rapture coincide with the last trumpet, but every rapture passage in the Bible also describes Jesus visibly returning in power and glory in the clouds.

The cloud motif is directly connected to the shekinah glory of the LORD in the Old Testament, when the cloud would descend and fill the tabernacle. This is important because the pre-tribulation position universally teaches that the rapture of the church will be a secret, mysterious event where the church is suddenly caught up in the clouds without warning.

But the Bible never once teaches a secret rapture of the church. On the contrary, the Bible overwhelmingly teaches that the rapture is connected to the visible, physical, glorious, conspicuous, coming of Jesus on the clouds in power! Consider how all of the key rapture passages describe the coming of Jesus.

“Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.”

[Revelation 1:7]

“Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

[Matthew 24:31]

“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. 

[1 Thessalonians 4:17]

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

[Daniel 7:13-14]

The logical argument therefore follows …

  1. The rapture of the church takes place at the same time Jesus is seen by all people of the earth coming with the clouds in power and glory.
  2. Jesus comes on the clouds in power and glory at His second coming to establish His kingdom on earth.
  3. Therefore, the rapture coincides with the return of Christ to earth.

Indicator #3 — The REsurrection of the Dead

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the deadFor as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.”

[1 Corinthians 15:20-24]

The next key element of timing that I will discuss is the resurrection of the dead — also known as the first resurrection. Almost every rapture passage in the Bible is associated with the resurrection of the dead — specifically the resurrection of all believers. So when does the resurrection of the saints take place?

It couldn’t be more clear. The resurrection of the dead, aka the first resurrection, takes place at the end of the age, in association with the second coming of the Lord Jesus on the last day. As Paul says in the passage above, Jesus will raise “those who belong to Christ” at His coming, and “then comes the end.”

If it couldn’t get any clearer than that, consider the following passages that emphasize the resurrection of the dead at the return of Christ.

“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

[1 Corinthians 15:51-52]

“For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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. 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.” 

[1 Thessalonians 4:13-17]

“Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.”

[Revelation 20:6]

“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

[John 6:39-40]

The logical argument follows …

  1. The rapture of the church coincides with the resurrection of all those who belong to Christ — or the first resurrection.
  2. The resurrection of the dead takes place at the second coming of Christ on the last day.
  3. Therefore, the rapture of the church takes place at the second coming of Christ on the last day, at the end of the age.

Indicator #4 — After the Great Tribulation

Finally, let’s look at the most straightforward indicator of timing that Jesus gives concerning the rapture of the church. We have established that Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 all harmonize with other key rapture passages, such as 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians 4, and Revelation 11, which means that they all describe the very same event.

Now let us consider when Jesus said the rapture of the church will take place.

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

[Matthew 24:29-31]

So when does Jesus say He is coming to gather (rapture) His elect from every corner of the earth? AFTER the GREAT TRIBULATION of THOSE DAYS!

Jesus told us the exact timing of the rapture … it will not occur until after the great tribulation, which means that — YES — the church will be on the earth during the worst time in human history. But it also means that we will be looking for and waiting for His coming that much more!

The logical argument, therefore, follows …

  1. Jesus said that the rapture of His elect (the church) will take place at His coming, immediately AFTER the tribulation.
  2. According to Jesus, the church cannot be raptured at any moment, but only after the great tribulation.
  3. Therefore, the church will be present on the earth during the great tribulation.

Conclusion

Based on these key elements of timing, we can know for certain the exact timing of the rapture. I will leave you with these solid Biblical truths to ponder.

  1. The rapture of the church takes place at the last trumpet at the coming of Christ.
  2. The rapture of the church takes place when Jesus returns visibly on the clouds in glory for every eye to see and every knee to bow.
  3. The rapture of the church takes places at the resurrection of the dead on the last day.
  4. The rapture of the church takes place immediately after the great tribulation, at the second coming of Christ, who is coming to judge the nations in wrath.

As Jesus descends from heaven with the cry of a command and with the trumpet blast of God, every eye will see Him coming on the clouds with great power and glory. While He is descending to earth, the dead in Christ will be raised and those believers who are still alive on the earth will be caught up (raptured) to meet the Lord in the air. Then God’s heavenly host of angels and all the saints will follow the Lord Jesus as He returns to destroy the Antichrist, judge the nations and establish His kingdom on earth!

Even so come Lord Jesus!

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