The Feast of Trumpets — Part 1

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation.”

[Leviticus 23:23-24]

Having rediscovered the prophetic purposes of the spring Feasts of the LORD and the precision with which Christ has fulfilled them in His first coming, I now will turn my attention to the three remaining fall feasts. Although some authors have proposed a correlation between the fall feasts and the first coming of Christ [i.e. Yeshua most likely was born on or around the Feast of Tabernacles], my focus here will remain on the future fulfillment of the fall feasts in connection to His second coming.

The first of the fall feasts traditionally is known as Yom Teruah — the Day of Shouting. The Hebrew word, teruah, is associated with sounding an alarm, shouting the battle cry, making an announcement, and blowing the trumpets. The LORD declared the Feast of Trumpets to begin at the first sighting of the new moon on the seventh month, which means that the appointed time of this feast is unique from all other Feasts of the LORD.

Whereas all other feasts are designated on specific days of the Hebrew calendar, no one precisely knows “the day or the hour” of the Feast of Trumpets because it is determined each year by the appearance of the new moon. As the sixth month draws to a close, the people must wait and watch vigilantly in anticipation for the first sign of the moon’s sliver. Because of the uncertainty of knowing the “day or hour,” Yom Teruah traditionally became a two-day feast to ensure that the people did not miss it.

Once the new moon was sighted, the heralds were to report to the high priest, who validated the sighting on the testimony of two witnesses. Once validated, the high priest commanded the blowing of the shofar from the Temple Mount, which initiated a series of trumpet blasts and celebrations of shouting and praising God throughout the land of Israel. The longest and strongest trumpet blast finally would bring it all to a close, which was the “last trump.”

The LORD commanded His people to observe a special Sabbath, a solemn rest, on this holy day, specifically as a reminder of the greatest day in Israel’s history. The Feast of Trumpets was established as an annual memorial commemorating the day when the LORD descended from heaven in flaming fire onto the top of Mount Sinai to reveal Himself in glory to Moses and His people.

A Memorial for Sinai

The Feast of Trumpets corresponds to the greatest theophany, or divine appearance, that mankind had ever seen. It was at the base of Mount Sinai in the desert of Northwest Arabia that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was made manifest in power and great glory before the children of Israel. His presence at Sinai was so awesome to behold that the people begged of Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die” [Exodus 20:19].

The blowing of trumpets were to serve as a reminder of that most unique and unforgettable day. Let’s take another look at the Biblical account of God’s appearance at Sinai.

 “On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.”

[Exodus 19:16-20]

Notice that these trumpets blasts were of divine origin, sounding from heaven, to announce the coming of the LORD to the earth to meet with His people. The trumpet blasts grew more intense the closer God’s appearance became, causing the people to fear and tremble at His sight.

While the theophany at Sinai remains to be the primary event in connection to the Feast of Trumpets, other purposes later were prescribed for trumpets, all of which are interesting in their own right. As you will see, the blowing of trumpets retains significant purpose in Israel’s past and also prophetic fulfillment in the days to come.

The Silver Trumpets and the Shofar

In Numbers chapter 10 the LORD commanded Moses to fashion two silver trumpets for multiple purposes.

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Make two silver trumpets. Of hammered work you shall make them, and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for breaking camp … And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets. The trumpets shall be to you for a perpetual statute throughout your generations. 

And when you go to war in your land against the adversary who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the LORD your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies. On the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feasts and at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings. They shall be a reminder of you before your God: I am the LORD your God.”

[Numbers 10:1-2, 8-10]

Numbers 10 provides the context for how trumpets were to be used among the children of Israel. Trumpets were to be sounded …

  1. To summon and gather God’s people together and also for breaking camp.
  2. For important public announcements (literally evangelism).
  3. To sound the alarm, or battle cry, for war.
  4. To summon God’s presence and power for battle to overcome the enemy.
  5. To initiate the joyous celebrations associated with the appointed feasts and new moon festivals.

Beyond the silver trumpets, the LORD also commanded Israel to use the shofar — or ram’s horn — in similar ways. Perhaps the most famous use of the shofar was during Joshua’s battle at Jericho.

“Have seven priests carry seven rams’ horns in front of the ark. Then on the seventh day, march around the city seven times, while the priests blow the horns. And when there is a long blast of the ram’s horn and you hear its sound, have all the people give a mighty shout. Then the wall of the city will collapse, and the people will go up, each man straight ahead.”

[Joshua 6:4-5]

Other Days Associated with Trumpets

Beyond Sinai, the silver trumpets and shofars, other days traditionally are recognized by the Jews to correspond with the Feast of Trumpets. It is noteworthy to list them here.

  • The Head of the Year — Rosh Hashanah — The Feast of Trumpets announces the beginning of a new year on the Jewish civil calendar.
  • The Day of the Resurrection — The Feast of Trumpets is associated with the day of the awakening blast, as Isaiah says, “Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy …” [Isaiah 26:19].
  • The Day of Judgment — Yom Hadin — Jewish tradition says that the Feast of Trumpets also will be the day the books are opened judgment is rendered prior to the age of the Messianic Kingdom.
  • Day of Coronation of the King — Yom Hamelech – The trumpets were to be sounded at the coronation ceremony of a new king, as we read, “There Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, ‘Long live King Solomon!‘” [1 Kings 1:39]

As we will see next time, when one understands the purpose of the Feast of Trumpets in Israel’s past, he will be more likely to understand the greater fulfillment of this fascinating feast in the future, when the Lord Jesus returns in all His glory. The Feast of Trumpets will initiate the Day of the LORD — that great and dreadful Day — when the King returns home to claim what is rightfully His!

“Blow a trumpet in Zion;

sound an alarm on my holy mountain!

Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,

for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near!”

[Joel 2:1-2]

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!

Can Jesus Really Return “At Any Moment?”

“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.”

[2 Thessalonians 2:1-4]

As I discussed in an earlier post, those who hold a pre-tribulation rapture of the church are required to divide the Second Coming of Christ into two distinct stages, or phases. In this view, the pre-tribulation rapture is the FIRST PHASE of the SECOND COMING and could happen at any moment without warning or sign. Then the SECOND PHASE of the SECOND COMING would be considered the final return of the LORD to the earth, which is preceded by specific signs on the prophetic timetable.

The Scriptures, however, make no such distinction and rather emphasize the great and terrible Day of the LORD and His Second Coming, which will be immediately following the great tribulation (Matthew 24:29-31). There is only one Second Coming of Christ, and according to the spirit of prophecy and testimony of Jesus (Rev. 19:10), there are many significant and specific signs that must precede the return of the King to earth.

My introductory passage from 2 Thessalonians 2 is one of the most straightforward in all of Scripture that proves this fact. If interpreted correctly, this passage clearly indicates that Jesus Christ cannot return “at any moment.” There are certain events on the prophetic timeline that must happen before Jesus comes again.

Before we examine this key passage, I want to clarify that I am not telling the King of the universe what He can and cannot do. Obviously the Lord Jesus is capable of doing anything and everything He so pleases according to His perfect nature and holy will. But what I am saying is that God has inextricably bound His future actions to His own prophetic word, meaning that which has been foreordained in the Scriptures will come to pass as it has been revealed in His Holy word. (Isaiah 46:9-11)

Now let’s break down 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4.

The context of this letter to the believers in Thessalonica is dealing with the church’s misunderstanding of the return of Jesus. The Apostle Paul is attempting to correct false teachings and comfort the church by reminding them that the Day of the LORD (i.e. the Return of Jesus) has not yet come. The reason Paul is able to assure them is that he provides several specific signs that must precede the return of Christ. In other words, there is no reason to be alarmed or anxious that the church could miss the second coming of Christ because God has promised these signs must first take place.

Here we are nearly 2,000 years removed from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, and these signs have not manifested and Jesus has yet to return. Therefore, we also should heed Paul’s words.

The Coming of the Lord

Paul makes it clear that the following passage is “concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 1). For those who hold a pre-tribulation (or even mid-tribulation) position, which coming is Paul referring to here — the first second coming or the second second coming?

This isn’t a problem for the post-tribulation position because historically the church has only recognized one second coming of Christ at the end of the age. The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to earth will take place immediately following the great tribulation at the end of the age (Mt. 24:29-31, 1 Cor. 15:23-28).

Our Being Gathered unto Him

Next, Paul mentions “our being gathered unto him” (v. 1). This is one of the most clear, plain references to the rapture of the church in all of Scripture. The Greek word Paul uses here for “gathered” is [episunagó], which is the exact same word Jesus uses in the Olivet discourse to describe the gathering of God’s people at His second coming.

“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. 30Then 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. 31And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather [episunagó] his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

[Matthew 24:29-31]

Paul draws directly from the words of Jesus and describes this very same event in his first letter to the Thessalonians.

“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 4:16-17]

That DAY Will Not Come Unless …

Now that we have established that this passage is describing the second coming of Jesus Christ which coincides with the rapture of the church, Paul wants to ensure believers that we will not miss His return because certain prophetic signs must happen first. Paul emphasizes the importance that God’s people avoid deception and false teaching concerning the second coming of Christ.

In my opinion, the teaching of a secret, imminent pre-tribulation rapture is precisely the kind of erroneous teaching that Paul is talking about. Nothing could be more discouraging for a believer than to be hoping to escape the great tribulation and suddenly be thrust into the midst of trials and persecution. It is easy to see how such a major misinterpretation of Scripture could cause alarm, anxiety and great doubt in the heart of a believer who isn’t prepared.

Sign #1 — The Great Apostasy

Pauls provides the first sign that will precede the return of the LORD, saying that there will be a collective turning away from the faith and rejection of Christ in the last days. Obviously we are seeing more and more compromise in the church and the great potential for mass deception and a subsequent defection the faith. Jesus and Paul both warn us of the spirit of apostasy in the end times.

“And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” 

[Matthew 24:10-12]

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.”

[1 Timothy 4:1]

As false teaching abounds and more people are deceived, Satan is setting the stage to come working false signs and wonders that would deceive even the elect, if it were possible. This rebellion, or apostasy, will be unique and unmistakable to the remnant of true believers who remain faithful to Christ.

Sign #2 — The Man of Lawlessness

Next we learn that Jesus will not return until after the Antichrist is revealed. Paul makes it clear that the church will not only be here on earth for the revealing of the Antichrist — the son of destruction — but that believers will suffer persecution at the hands of the Antichrist and his evil forces. Historically, the church fathers overwhelmingly agreed that the last generation would face the Antichrist. They developed this view directly from the Scriptures. Paul, again, is drawing from the teachings of Jesus, who warned all believers about the coming of the Antichrist and the abomination of desolation.

“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.

[Matthew 24:15-22]

Sign #3 — The Third Temple

Finally, Paul says that the Antichrist will exalt Himself in a literal Temple in Jerusalem. Being that there is no existing Temple today, we can expect a third Temple to be constructed in these last days, and we can expect the Antichrist to hijack the holy place of God and profane the Temple and use it as his throne of self-glory.

So we can be certain that Jesus will not come again until there is another literal Temple rebuilt in Jerusalem. The Apostle John also reminds us that the Temple and Jerusalem will be trampled under the foot of the nations for 3 1/2 years.

“Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.”

[Rev 11:1-2]

To briefly recap, the Bible says that the coming of the Lord Jesus and the rapture of the church (our gathering unto Him) WILL NOT TAKE PLACE unless these specific signs happen first. Why else would the Lord Jesus give us so many signs to look for and the Holy Spirit to discern the times if we aren’t going to be here to begin with?

Can Jesus Christ return at any moment?

According to the testimony of Jesus Himself, NO. These things must take place before He comes.

He is calling us to wait and watch and witness until that Day!

Will Jesus Secretly “Appear” at the Rapture and “Come” Again Later?

“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.”

[1 John 2:28]
Gustave Dore – 1868

We have all seen the bumper sticker that says … “Warning: In case of the rapture, this vehicle will be unmanned.”

Millions have seen the Left Behind films and read the books that portray the rapture of the church as a secret event, where Christians all over the world suddenly disappear leaving the rest of the world in utter amazement and confusion.

This idea of a secret rapture of the church makes for a good plot line in popular books and movies. The only problem is … it’s not biblical.

Instead of being mesmerized by popular fiction, we should be asking the question, “how does the Bible describe the rapture of the church and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?”

When we turn to the Word of God, we find an entirely different picture of the rapture of the church. Every clear Biblical reference to the rapture of the church is connected to the public, conspicuous, visible, supernatural, unmistaken, glorious return of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth.

There is nothing secret about it. There is no confusion as to who is coming or what is happening. Every eye will see Jesus at His coming and all the people on the earth will know what is happening on that DAY.

Although I am looking forward breaking down these primary rapture passages for later posts, today I would like to present just one key objection to the pre-tribulation rapture argument.

Appearing vs. Coming

Words have meaning and words matter, especially when trying to responsibly interpret complex Biblical passages that deal with the last days and the second coming of Christ. The proponents of the pre-tribulation rapture position often rely on taking entire Biblical passages and specific words out of context and applying their own meaning to them, while trying to force them to fit their view.

Case in point. One of the primary arguments of the pre-tribulation position is that when Jesus comes secretly to rapture His church before the beginning of the tribulation period, He only “appears” in the sky and then just as quickly disappears with the church. Many dispensationalists go as far as saying that only the church will be able to see Jesus during this mysterious, secret event, and the rest of the people of the world will have no clue as to what just transpired. They use the motif of Jesus coming like thief in the night to support their view.

Here is one of the go-to passages used to support this view of the secret appearing of Jesus at the rapture.

“As we wait for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

[Titus 2:13]

The pre-tribulation position makes a distinction between the “appearing” of Christ at the first phase of the second coming and the “coming” of Christ during the second phase of the second coming. The first “appearing” is invisible, secret, and heavenly, where as the second “coming” is visible, public, and earthly.

But does this distinction pass the test of responsible, accurate Biblical interpretation?

Not even close.

Synonymous Terms for the Return of Jesus

First of all, there are four primary Greek words used in the New Testament to describe the return of Jesus Christ. They are …

  1. Coming (parousia),
  2. Revealing (apokalupsis)
  3. Appearing (epiphaneia) and
  4. Appearing (phanaroo)

All four words are used interchangeably in referring to the Second Coming of Christ and cannot be distinguished. There is no Biblical evidence that supports a distinction between the appearing of Christ and the coming of Christ. For example …

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom … Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

[2 Timothy 4:1, 8]

Notice that Paul uses the Greek word, appearing [epiphaneia], to describe when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead and reward believers “on that day.” Any elementary study of the Scriptures clearly places the final judgment and the Day of the Lord as taking place at the second coming of Christ at the end of the great tribulation. So this passage places the appearing of Jesus as synonymous with His coming at the end of the age — not at some secret rapture 7 years prior.

“So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

[1 Peter 1:7]

Just for clarity, Peter agrees with Paul by placing the reward of the saints at the “revelation” of Jesus Christ, which is the Greek word, apokalupsis. So now we have the appearance and revelation of Christ as being the same event. In case you were wondering when the revelation of Jesus Christ takes place, Paul makes it abundantly clear that this is the final and only second coming of Christ. In the following passage, he uses the very same word, apokalupsis, as Peter does to refer to the second coming of Christ.

“To grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” 

[2 Thessalonians 1:7-8]

In 1 John 2:28, John literally uses both appearing [phanaroo] and coming [parousia] in the same verse to refer to the return of Jesus, which in and of itself destroys the argument of a distinction between terms.

“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.”

[1 John 2:28]

Of course there are multiple passages that use the word, coming [parousia], to describe the return of Jesus, and they are all synonymous with the other Greek terms. These include Matthew 24:29-31, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, just to name a few.

Now for one last passage, let’s again examine Titus 2:13, which is the primary go-to passage used by the pre-tribulation camp to draw a distinction between the appearing and coming of Christ. But this time, let’s read it in context.

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

[Titus 2:11-13 NIV]

Notice that Paul uses the same Greek word, appearing [epiphaneia], to describe both the first and second coming of Jesus Christ. He says that the grace of God revealed in Jesus “has appeared,” referring to the first coming of Jesus, and then he says believers are awaiting His second appearing. What can we learn about this wonderful passage?

  1. Paul uses the word “appeared” to describe the first coming of Jesus — which was physical, public, bodily, visible, and on the earth. Not secret, invisible, spiritual and in heaven.
  2. Paul uses the same word to describe the second coming of Jesus — which also will be physical, public, visible, and on the earth. Not secret, invisible and in the heavens.
  3. Paul also connects this second “appearing” of Jesus Christ with the glory of God. If this appearing is glorious, then how can it secret or hidden?
  4. Many other second coming passages also mention the glory of God as revealed in the Lord Jesus when He comes on the clouds with power for all to see.
  5. There is nothing in this passage that would lead anyone to believe that our blessed hope is some secret, hidden event that could happen at any moment. This passage actually describes the exact opposite.
  6. Jesus will appear (come) a second time in all His power and glory and His heavenly host at the end of the age to resurrect the dead, gather his saints in the rapture, destroy His enemies, judge the earth, and establish His kingdom once and for all.

As we will see next time, there are several key events that coincide with the rapture of the church that provide the specific timing of the rapture.

Our Blessed Hope is not the rapture … Our Blessed Hope is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He is the one we are waiting for.

The Pre-Tribulation Rapture and “Three” Comings of Jesus Christ

“So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”

[Hebrews 9:28]

Like so many who have been raised within the context of a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching church, I have heard the following statement all my life.

“Nobody knows when Jesus will return. He could come back at any moment. He could even come back today … So we better be ready.”

In theological language, the belief that the Lord Jesus can return at any moment is called imminency. Imminency is the eschatological concept that there are no other signs or events on the prophetic timeline that must take place before Jesus comes again. In short, the very next event that the church should be anticipating is the coming of Jesus.

Well … sort of.

You see, this teaching of imminency is directly connected to dispensationalism and more specifically to the pre-tribulation rapture of the church. So when someone says Jesus could come at any moment, some clarification is needed.

For example, exactly which Second Coming can happen at any moment? The First Second Coming or the Second Second Coming?

Wait. What?

Yeah … that’s what I said.

The “TWO PHASES” of the SECOND COMING

What is really meant by the concept of imminency is that the “FIRST PHASE” of Jesus’ Second Coming could happen at any moment, which involves the rapture of the church. According to dispensationalists, this “FIRST PHASE” of Jesus’ second coming is a secret, mysterious event, where the LORD “comes” and raptures the church out of the world and then returns to heaven to wait out the tribulation period. Then after the great tribulation, the “SECOND PHASE” of Jesus’ second coming will take place, when the LORD finally returns to the earth.

Confused yet? Yeah … me too.

Unfortunately, I have yet to have anyone provide a reasonable explanation for the TWO PHASES or TWO STAGES of Christ’s second coming. Not only is this concept confusing and contrary to orthodox Christian doctrine, but even worse it is downright unbiblical. Let me explain.

TWO or THREE Comings

To be clear, the historical, theological, and eschatological position of orthodox Christianity for the last 2,000 years has emphasized the SECOND COMING of Jesus Christ. The very integrity of the gospel itself is bound by the doctrine of the Second Coming.

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

The gospel truth is that Jesus Christ came the first time to suffer and die for sinners on the cross. He was raised on the third day, and after showing Himself to hundreds of eyewitness for a period of 40 days, Christ ascended to heaven where He is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. This same Jesus will return from heaven a second time as King of kings to judge the living and the dead.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

[Titus 2:11-13]

But to believe in a pre-tribulation rapture one must divide, or split, the Second Coming of Jesus into TWO PHASES, which effectively creates a THIRD COMING of Jesus. Obviously a “third coming” is never found in the pages of Scripture, but then why do so many embrace a teaching that necessitates a third coming of Christ?

In my opinion, this is one of the major flaws in the dispensational teaching of a pre-tribulation rapture that too often gets neglected.

Consider the necessary conclusion of a pre-tribulation rapture.

  1. Jesus Christ came the first time, born of a virgin, God the Son, to suffer, die and be raised from the dead.
  2. Jesus Christ will come again the second time before the tribulation period to rapture the church, resurrect the dead, and take believers back to heaven.
  3. Jesus Christ will come again a third time after the great tribulation to judge the living and dead and to establish his kingdom on earth.

Clearly, we see three comings of Christ. No matter how anyone wants to parse it or interpret it, there is no other way around it. All who embrace the teaching of a pre-tribulation rapture of the church must also affirm and embrace a third coming of Jesus Christ. It is impossible to divide up the Second Coming of Christ into two distinct parts without creating a third coming.

My question is why would the Holy Spirit and the Biblical authors emphasize the plain understanding of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ when what they really meant to communicate is that there would be three comings of Christ? And just exactly which passages of Scripture actually distinguish the second coming (aka rapture) from the third coming?

Even Tim LaHaye, who perhaps did more to popularize the teaching of a pre-tribulation rapture than anyone in history, admitted that not one verse of Scripture supported a pre-tribulation rapture.

One objection to the pre-Tribulation Rapture is that not one passage of Scripture teaches the two aspects of His Second Coming separated by the Tribulation. This is true. But then, no one passage teaches a post-trib or mid-trib Rapture, either.”

“No single verse specifically states, ‘Christ will come before the Tribulation.’ On the other hand, no single passage teaches He will not come before the Tribulation, or that He will come in the middle or at the end of the Tribulation. Any such explicit declaration would end the debate immediately.”

Tim LaHaye, “No Fear of the Storm: Why Christians Will Escape All the Tribulation” (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1992), pp. 69, 188.

Even though LaHaye was honest about the absence of Biblical support for a pre-tribulation rapture, I must take issue with his statement that “no single passage teaches … that He will come at the end of the Tribulation.” That statement is flat out false. There is overwhelming Biblical evidence that provides clear elements of timing concerning the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, as I will show over the following posts.

Until then … here is just one key passage that does indeed teach that Jesus will return at the end of the tribulation — at His SECOND COMING!

“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]