I. The Time is Unknown
Matt. 24:36 - many sects try to predict the coming of Christ. But Jesus says,
"no one but the Father knows the day and the hour." The sects that try to
predict Christ's coming ignore these words.
Matt. 24:36 - we should also note that Jesus’ statement does not mean than
Jesus does not know the day of His Second Coming. Jesus does know, because He
is God. With this statement, Jesus explains that He chose to know by His human
knowledge only that which He wanted to know for His mission of salvation. In
other words, Jesus could have chosen not to know everything by His own human
knowledge, but Jesus knew everything in His human knowledge through its
hypostatic union to His eternal and infinite divine knowledge.
Matt. 24:44 – Jesus warns us that the Son of Man is coming at an hour we do not
Matt. 25:13 – Jesus says “watch therefore, and be prepared, for you know
neither the day nor the hour.”
Mark 13:35-37 – Jesus says “watch because you do not know when the Master of
the House will come - watch!”
Luke 12:46 - the Master will come on a day and at an hour when He is not
Acts 1:7 - Jesus says it is not for us to know the times or seasons which the
Father has fixed by His own authority.
1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10; Rev. 3:3 - the day of the Lord will come like a
thief in the night.
James 5:7 - be patient until the coming of the Lord. Those who try to predict
disregard this inspired teaching.
Rev. 22:20 - Jesus says He is coming soon, but He does not tell us when He is
coming. Because Jesus says we do not know the day or the hour and will be
surprised at His coming, it is silly, and disobedient, for people and groups to
predict His coming. We, instead, need to be about the business of growing in
holiness, so that we are prepared for our Lord when He comes again, no matter
when that will be.
II. The Rapture
1 Thess. 4:16-17 - Paul writes that "we will be caught up in the clouds to meet
the Lord in the air." Many Protestants call this experience the "rapture" (even
though the word "rapture" is not found in the Bible, although is derived from
the Latin vulgate of this verse – “rapiemur”). John 14:3; 1 Cor. 15:52 - these
are other passages that Protestants use to support the rapture experience. The
question Protestantism has raised is “when will the rapture occur?” They have
developed three theories – (1) post-tribulation; (2) pre-tribulation; and, (3)
mid-tribulation. We address these theories later on. But first, here is some
Rev. 20:2-3; 7-8 – John sees the vision of an angel who seizes satan and binds
him for a period of a thousand years. Protestants generally call this period of
a thousand years the “millennium.” The “millennium” is a harbinger of the end
of the world, and the theories of when the “rapture” will occur center around
this period of time. We should also note that the “thousand years” language is
part of apocalyptic literature and should not be interpreted literally. For
example, in Psalm 50:10, we see the cattle on a "thousand hills." The word
"thousand" here obviously means a lot of hills. In Dan. 7:10, a "thousand
thousands" served him. Again, "thousand" means a lot. In 2 Peter 3:8, with God
one day is a "thousand" years and a "thousand" years is one day. "Thousand" is
symbolic for a long time. It is not to be taken literally.
There are three ways that Protestants interpret the meaning of the thousand year
“millennium” (and the interpretation leads to answering when they think the
rapture will occur).
(1) Post-millennialism – this view interprets the “thousand years” as a very
long time. This view also holds that God’s kingdom is being advanced in the
world by His grace and the world will eventually be Christianized. Then Christ
will return at the close of this period during a time of righteousness and
peace. The problem with this view is that the Scriptures do not teach that the
world will be even relatively Christianized before the Second Coming. For
example, in Matt. 13:24-30;36-43, Jesus says the wicked and the righteous will
co-exist until the end of the world, when they will be judged, and either
inherit eternal life, or be thrown into eternal fire.
(2) Pre-millenialism (also called “millenarianism”) – like post-millennialists,
this view also interprets the “thousand years” as a golden age on earth when
the world will be Christianized. But they believe that this period will occur
after Christ’s second coming, during which time Christ will reign physically on
earth. They believe the Final Judgment occurs when the millennium is over. But
Scripture does not teach that there is a thousand year span between the Second
Coming and Final Judgment. Instead, Jesus said that when He comes a second time
in glory, He will immediately repay every man for what he has done. Matt.
16:27. When Jesus comes, He will separate the sheep from the goats and render
judgment. Matt. 25:31-46. There is nothing about any period of time between His
coming and final judgment.
(3) Amillennialism – this view also interprets the “thousand years”
symbolically, but, ulike the pre and post views, not as a golden age on earth.
This view believes the millennium is the period of Christ’s rule in heaven and
on earth through His Church. This is because the saints who reign with Christ
and to whom judgment has been committed are said to be on their thrones in
heaven. Rev. 20:4; cf. 4:4; 11:16. During this time, satan is bound and cannot
hinder the spread of the gospel. Rev. 20:3. This is why, they explain, Jesus
teaches the necessity of binding the “strong man” (satan) in order to plunder
his house and rescue people from his grip. Matt. 12:29. This is also why, after
the disciples preached the gospel and rejoiced that the demons were even
subject to them, Jesus declared, “I saw satan fall like lightening from
heaven.” Luke 10:18. Nevertheless, during this period, the world will not be
entirely Christianized because satan, though bound, is still in some sense able
to prowl around and attack souls. cf. 1 Peter 5:8. Of the three, this position
is most consistent with Catholic teaching (the pre and post-millennium views
have been rejected by the Church).
2 Thess. 2:1-4 – concerning the Second Coming of Christ, Scripture teaches (and
most Protestants believe) that Christ’s coming will be preceded by a time of
rebellion, lawlessness and persecution. Protestants often refer to this period
as the “tribulation” (although the word “tribulation” cannot be found in the
Scripture passages Protestants use to support the “rapture”). So the question
is, when will the 1 Thess. 4:16-17 “rapture” occur, in light of the tribulation
and Christ’s Second Coming? Here are the three theories previously mentioned:
(1) Post-tribulational view – this view holds that the rapture will occur right
after the tribulation and immediately before the Second Coming of Christ. This
view can be consistent with Scripture and Catholic teaching to the extent it
holds that the rapture and Christ’s Second Coming occur together, after the
tribulation and the Church Militant on earth. See, for example, Matt. 24:29-31;
Mark 13:24-27; 2 Thess. 1:1-12.
(2) Pre-tribulational view – this view holds that the rapture will occur before
the tribulation. The problem with this view is that it requires three comings
of Christ – first, when He was born in Bethlehem; second, when He returns for
the rapture before the tribulation; third, when He returns at the end of the
tribulation and establishes the millennium. Scripture rejects three comings of
Christ. In Heb. 9:28, it is clear that Christ will appear a second and final
time, when he comes in glory to save us. This view also is inconsistent with
Matt. 24:24-31; Mark 13:24-27; and 2 Thess. 2:1-12 where the rapture and the
Second Coming occur together.
(3) Mid-tribulational view – this view holds
that the rapture will occur during the middle of the tribulation. The problem
with this view is that it also requires three comings of Christ – first, when
He was born in Bethlehem; second, when He returns for the rapture during the
middle of the tribulation; third, when He returns at the end of the tribulation
and establishes the millennium. As seen in Heb. 9:28, Scripture rejects three
comings of Christ. The view is also inconsistent with Matt. 24:24-31; Mark.
13:24-27; and 2 Thess. 2:1-12.
2 Peter 3:8-15 – instead of worrying about when the rapture will occur,
Christians should follow Peter’s instruction to repent of their sins, live
lives of holiness and godliness, be zealous and at peace, and wait for the
Lord’s coming with forbearance and joy!