“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Old Testament prophets in predicting the coming of Messiah revealed His suffering , and His glory ; and this was a mystery as they could not understand their predictions . Just as Messiah’s first coming was in two phases, so will His second coming . Let us then consider the first aspect of His second coming.
THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH
“..we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” . The Rapture or “catching away”will be the first occurrence of Christ’s second coming, and this event is not found in the Old Testament because it is specifically for the Church ; and here we see that Christ will come initially for His saints – The Church. There is no date for this event found in the scriptures, but it is the hope of all believers who should maintain their sanctification while we wait . This event will be followed by THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST, at which all believers will be called to give an account, not to be judged for their sins because we are no longer under condemnation , Christ will reward each believer for their righteous works, but some will not be rewarded although such will be saved . Following this is THE MARRIAGE SUPPER OF THE LAMB of which no details are recorded in scripture . It should be noted that all three of these events occur in heaven.
THE GREAT TRIBULATION
Prior to Christ’s second coming to the earth, scriptures reveal that there will be a time of great distress upon the earth. This will be an event that has never before been seen, and will primarily be God’s punishment to the Jewish nation for their rejection and crucifixion of their Messiah. It will also be a time of judgment upon the nations and peoples of the earth for their hatred of God’s people – the Jews. At the outset, all people will be filled with fear but they will refuse to repent and turn to God and will continue rebel throughout this period . Sin is rebellion against God, and even though He has shown nothing but grace to all mankind, in the face of His wrath unrepentant mankind will not turn to God, and this is seen in the tribulation period.
The great tribulation occurs after the Church is taken away, and before Christ returns in His glory , this is Christ’s promise and the recorded occurrences during the tribulation do not make mention of the Church . The days will be “shortened” because of God’s mercy.
CHRIST’S SECOND COMING
After the seven years of tribulation Christ will return in person to the earth: “Immediately after the distress of those days…..”At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” . He will first appear to the nation of Israel who will regret their past history and rejection of their Messiah , and there will be no gentile opposition to Christ’s rule over His kingdom .
JUDGMENT OF THE LIVING NATIONS
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him…”. This will be a judgment upon those Gentile nations who demonstrated their faith in God by their assistance to His people, and upon those that have not by their continued animosity to the Jewish nation. Those that have exhibited faith in God will be admitted into His kingdom . And so all evil will be purged from the Kingdom of Christ.
The word millennium means “one thousand years”, and this will be the period of time for which Christ will reign over His kingdom . This will be a time when the earth, that has been cursed because of Adam’s sin, will be restored . It will be a time of real peace and prosperity, and all mankind will be in obedience to Christ . At the end of this period Satan will be released from his prison and will gather a great army in an attempt to overthrow God, but he and his army will be defeated and cast into the Lake of Fire ; and so all rebellion against God will be terminated forever.
THE GREAT WHITE THRONE
Following Christ’s victory over Satan and His army The Second Resurrection will occur, which will be the resurrection of all the unsaved people that have lived upon this earth. All mankind who have died, and in the case of those alive at the final battle, the account states that they will all be devoured by fire from heaven; so it is conceivable that all the unrighteous people will be dead; the scriptures reveal that all these will be raised from the dead . Then will follow the judgment at the Great White Throne, the Devil (Satan) and all his rebellious followers will be cast into the lake of fire, and these will be joined by all those condemned at the Great White Throne .
“Lord…..Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” ; before the creation there was a period called “eternity”, after the final judgment and the earth has been restored to its original state, eternity of the future will commence. The word simply means “an endless or indefinite period”, eternity will have no end. It is a period in which all the righteous who are at home in heaven will learn more of God and Christ and begin to appreciate all that has been done for us through His grace: “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” .
God will create a new heaven and a new earth to replace the present universe that has been contaminated by sin and destroyed by fire; in this new creation God Himself will live among the citizens. It will be a place of righteousness and peace, no more death, mourning or crying; we will reign with Christ forever and be joint inheritors with Him, and we will be like Christ in every way .