The Second Coming

 

 

The Secret Rapture

How will the Lord Jesus Christ return in His Second Coming?

 

Paul Wong

 

 

Our family lived in Santa Monica, California in the early seventies and we often drove to Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa where I conducted Friday evening and Saturday morning Sabbath services in our church members’ homes.  It was common to see automobiles along Highway 405 with bumper stickers that read “In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned”.  At that time it was the era of the Jesus People and Orange County was full of them.  Some of their folks also came to our Bible Studies.  We studied the End Time and one of the subjects we discussed was the Great Tribulation. 

 

When I asked the question, “Where will you be during the Great Tribulation?” our Christian friends would give answers like “I’ll be out of this world” or “I’ll be with Jesus in Heaven”.  I then asked them, “Do you mean you will be dead by then?”  They quickly replied, “No, we would have raptured and disappeared from the earth.”  “Really!”   I turned to Matthew 24:29-31 and showed them what it says:

 

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Mt. 24:29-31)

 

Here is a clear statement from our Lord Jesus Christ who said that He will be coming “immediately after the tribulation” and not before, so how can Christians be with Him in Heaven during the Great Tribulation?  Our Christian friends explained they would be secretly raptured before that time, which means they will suddenly disappear from the earth before the Great Tribulation occurs.  The word “rapture” is derived from the Latin word rapturawith the meaning of “seizure” or being snatched away.  It also means overwhelming happiness.

 

 

How did we get the Secret Rapture Theory

 

Before the Nineteenth Century nobody has ever heard of the Secret Rapture Theory.  In the early part of 1830 a young woman named Margaret Macdonald from the Catholic Apostolic Church in Port Glasgow, Scotland claimed to have received the revelation that a select group of Christians would be caught up to meet Jesus Christ in the air before the days of the Antichrist. 

 

John Nelson Darby (1800–1882), one of leaders of the Plymouth Brethren Movement, took Margaret Macdonald’s new teaching to another level.  Macdonald taught a partial rapture of believers while Darby taught that all believers would be raptured. Darby further developed the Doctrine of Dispensation in which God’s plan of redemption is divided into two programs – one for Israel and the other for the Church. 

 

The Dispensation doctrine states that when the Church is raptured into heaven the Jews will be left behind to face the Antichrist during the Great Tribulation which lasts seven years.  C. I. Schofield published his Reference Bible in 1909 with notes referring to the dispensation doctrine.  Today you can find many books on the End Time promoting the dispensation doctrine and the Secret Rapture Theory.

 

 

“Left Behind”

 

“But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left.  Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.  Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.” (Mt. 24:37-42)

 

Our Lord Jesus Christ draws an analogy to the days of Noah in which the wicked people were taken away and destroyed by the flood.  They “did not know until the flood came and took them all away”.   Only Noah and his family were left behind because they entered the Ark which symbolized the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Promoters of the Secret Rapture theory in the “Left Behind” fictional novels have the reverse interpretation of what our Lord intended for His analogy of the days of Noah.  Our Lord Jesus Christ meant those “left behind” are the ones who are saved whereas the fictional novels portray those “left behind” are the ones who are not saved.  Who do you want to believe - the Lord Jesus Christ or the authors of the fictional novels?

 

 

Is the Secret Rapture Theory biblical?

 

This secret rapture theory is fascinating but is it biblical?  Let us examine some of the scriptural verses that proponents of the Secret Rapture Theory use to support their beliefs.

 

The Lord Jesus Christ is coming back as a thief in the night

  

   The New Testament has many passages that compare the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ with the unexpected house break-in of the thief at night.  Those who teach the Secret Rapture say the Lord Jesus Christ will come as a thief in the night to snatch away true believers while others are asleep.  Let us examine each passage carefully and see what is their real message.

 

Matthew 24:42-43   Our Lord said, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.  But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken in.”    These verses say nothing about the secret rapture, but only indicate Jesus will return like the thief who would come at an unknown and unexpected time.  The warning is for Christians to be ready at all times.

 

   1 Thessalonians 5:2   The apostle Paul wrote: “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.” This verse does not mean that believers would be raptured because if you read two verses below Paul gave the explanation.  “But you, brethren, are not in darkness so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.” (1 Thes. 5:4) It says nothing about a secret rapture.  Again, the message here is NOT that Jesus' coming will be secret, but that it will occur at a time when most will not expect it, therefore we must WATCH!

 

2 Peter 3:10   Here is a scriptural verse that completely destroys the secret rapture theory.  “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.”  How can there be a secret rapture when “the heavens will pass away with a great noise”?

 

Revelation 3:3   The Lord Jesus Christ said: “Remember therefore how you have received and heard:  hold fast and repent.  Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.”       There is nothing in this verse that even vaguely suggests that Christians will be raptured secretly.  Here is an instruction for them to watch because nobody knows when Jesus will be returning.

 

   Revelation 16:15   This verse states, “Behold, I am coming as a thief.”  Again it says nothing about a secret rapture.  The rest of the verse state, “Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”  This verse is preceded and followed by verses that show very clearly the Lord Jesus Christ will only return after “battle of that great day of God Almighty. . . Armageddon.” (Rev. 16:14-16)

 

Unless you insert your own interpretation into the verses there is nothing to indicate there is any secret rapture before the Lord Jesus Christ returns.

 

 

The Return of the Lord Jesus Christ is visible
and audible, and there is no Third Coming

 

Advocates of the Secret Rapture teach there are two phases of the Lord’s Return.  In the first phase Jesus will come secretly to take believers with Him to Heaven, and in the second phase, which is after the Great Tribulation, our Lord will return with the saints.  Although they do not like to admit it but they are suggesting that our Lord Jesus Christ will have a Third Coming.  Where in the Bible does it say that?  Let us examine some of the scriptural verses that show this theory of the Secret Rapture and the Third Coming is completely flawed.

 

1. Testimony of the angels   After the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven the two angels spoke to the Lord’s disciples:  Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven?  This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”  (Acts 1:11)  The next time when Jesus returns it will be in the same “manner” as he went up to Heaven.  Jesus ascended to heaven on the Mount of Olives openly and visibly.  When He returns it will also be openly and visibly, and certainly not in secret.

 

2. Appearance a second time   This verse states very clearly that our Lord Jesus Christ will appear a second time.  “So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.  To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” (Heb. 9:28)  Christ’s appearance a second time is not a secret at all.  “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Col. 3:4)

 

3. Christ’s Second Coming will be like the lightning   In the discourse on His Second Coming our Lord Jesus Christ describes it so graphically that no one can misinterpret it any other way:  “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Mt. 24:27)  Can anyone not see the lightning when it flashes across the sky?  How then can anyone think the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ will be a secret one?

 

4. Every eye will see Jesus Christ when He comes again   When the Lord returns He will not only appear to His disciples but also to every person on earth.  “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see him, and they also who pierced Him.  And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” (Rev. 1:7)  There is no secret about the Lord’s Second Coming.

 

5. The Lord Jesus Christ will appear to all the tribes of the earth   Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself stated He would return immediately after the Great Tribulation.  “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, 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.” (Mt. 24:29-31)  There is nothing secret about the Return of the Lord Jesus Christ when everyone on the earth will see His coming.

 

6. The Lord will descend from heaven with a shout   The apostle Paul wrote about the Return of the Lord Jesus Christ.  “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”  (1 Thess. 4:16-18)  There is nothing in these verses that says the Lord’s Second Coming will be a quiet and secret one.  After the Second Coming the saints will be with Jesus Christ forever.

 

7. The Lord Jesus Christ will come at the last trumpet   Here is what the apostle Paul wrote: “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 incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Cor. 15:51-52)  “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Mt. 24:31)  There are seven trumpets mentioned in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 8:6).  From the first trumpet to the sixth trumpet the earth will be undergoing the Great Tribulation (Rev. 8:7-13; 9:1-21).  “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15)

 

If you read through the entire Bible you will never be able find one single verse that even remotely suggests the Lord Jesus Christ will return in secret to take the believers with Him to Heaven, and then return again the third time.  The New Testament clearly refers to the Return of the Lord Jesus Christ as His Second and Final Coming before the earth is destroyed by fire (2 Pet. 3:10-12).     - to be continued -

 

 

May God bless you

 

 

This article is a presentation of Paul Wong

to the ARK Forum on November 21, 2004

 

For comments please write first to: arkpw@sbcglobal.net

 

Paul Wong is a Christian minister and the President of ARK International.
His ministry also serves as an architectural service company in
Houston.
The ARK Forum on the Internet is international and non-denominational.

 

 

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