Background: "The Return of Christ" is a glorious event on God's prophetic calendar, but this wonderful doctrine can at times be confusing because some passages are ambiguous as to which aspect of the Return of Christ is being described and many commentaries use the term Second Coming generally to refer to both aspects of Christ's return (some of course because they do not accept a "two phase" return). The following table is an attempt to summarize the differences in the future Return of Christ. This chart is based on a literal interpretation of Scripture and not a specific theological persuasion, although admittedly this tabulation is more in keeping with what dispensationalists have taught.
Irregardless of our eschatological position, all believers can agree with John's encouraging and motivating declaration…
Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1Jn 3:2-note, 1Jn 3:3-note)
Related Resource: Multiple illustrations & quotations related to Christ's Second Coming
IS THE MOST GENERALLY ACCEPTED DESIGNATION?
TERMS ARE USED?
RELATIONSHIP TO THE
Christ will come
Christ will come
GREEK VERBS ARE SPECIFIC?
GREEK NOUNS REFER TO THIS EVENT?
|Parousia = coming
Apokalupsis = revelation
Epiphaneia = appearing
|Parousia = coming
Apokalupsis = revelation
Epiphaneia = appearing
(A MARRIAGE CEREMONY)
|KING OF KINGS
LORD OF LORDS
(CORONATION OF A KING)
DOES CHRIST RETURN?
|TO JUDGE &
WAGE WAR AGAINST SINNERS
|WHO IS REMOVED
AT THE RETURN?
THEY HAVE A BLESSED HOPE
THEY HAVE NO HOPE
|WHAT IS THE RELATION TO THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM?||
ARE RELATIVELY SPECIFIC?
|Mt 24:27, 28, 29, 30 (note)
Re 19:11, 12, 13, 14-note
ARE THESE EVENTS DESCRIBED?
IS THE TIMING?
Daniel's Seventieth Week
(Seven Year Tribulation)
Daniel's Seventieth Week
(Seven Year Tribulation)
(After Great Tribulation)
CAN THIS EVENT BE
|CANNOT BE PREDICTED…
IT IS IMMINENT (note)
|YES CAN BE PREDICTED…
2520 days after Antichrist signs treaty with Israel or 1260 days after he breaks the covenant
Da 9:27-note, Mt 24:15 - note
QUICKLY WILL IT OCCUR?
|IN A MOMENT
(In an "atom")
TWINKLING OF AN EYE
to be visible to the eye
Mt 24:27-note, Rev 1:7-note,
Ps 2:2, Rev 19:19-note
WILL THE WORLD SEE? WILL THE WORLD SEE THE EVENT?
IT IS A
Only believers see Him
The world is spiritually "asleep"
IT IS A
Believers and non-believers
Every eye will see Him
SIGNS SIGNAL THIS EVENT?
Mt 24:4-14 -note
SIGN OF SON OF MAN
Mt 24:29, 30 -note
IS THE RELATIONSHIP TO THE BOOK OF REVELATION?
REVELATION — CHAPTER 4
REVELATION — CHAPTERS 6-18
DOES CHRIST COME?
DOES CHRIST COME?
|IN THE CLOUDS
NO MENTION OF HORSE
ON A WHITE HORSE
Mt 24:30, Rev 19:11-note
at the Rapture
|Those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful (saints)
The armies (saints and angels) which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses
Rev 19:14 -note
ARE THE ASSOCIATED JUDGMENTS?
NO JUDGMENT OF UNBELIEVERS
BEMA SEAT JUDGMENT
1Cor 3:11, 12, 13, 14,15
|JUDGMENT OF ANTICHRIST
Re 19:17-note, Re 19:18-note,
Re 19:19-note; Re 19:20-note
SHEEP & GOATS
Mt 25:31-46 (note)
|WHAT ATTITUDES ARE REFLECTED?||COMFORT
1Thes 4:18- -note
|MOURNING FOR ALL THE TRIBES OF THE EARTH
Rev 1:7-note, Mt 24:30
|WHAT HAPPENS TO BODIES OF BELIEVERS?||BELIEVERS
& PUT ON
1 Cor 15:51-52, 53, 54, 55
ENTER MILLENNIUM IN NATURAL BODIES
Mt 25:23 (note)
|WHERE MENTIONED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT?||NO SPECIFIC MENTION
(COMPARE ENOCH &
Da 2:44, 45 (note) (note)
Da 7:11, 12, 13, 14 (note) (note)
|WHAT CHANGES ON EARTH?||NO
|MT OF OLIVES
SPLITS IN THE MIDDLE
Zech 14:4 (Ref) (Ref 2)
At the Rapture
At the Second Coming marking the End of the Tribulation &
Based on a review of multiple commentaries and journal articles, it is "safe to say" that the majority of conservative evangelical scholars who interpret the Scripture in a literal, normative manner distinguish the Rapture, when Christ comes for His Bride, the Church, from the Second Coming, when Christ comes with His Bride, the Church to earth to judge and wage war against His enemies which is followed by the establishment of His 1000 year Millennial Kingdom. If one accepts a pre-tribulation viewpoint, this distinction would seem to be quite clear. However if one favors a post-tribulation rapture, then the identity of these events would merge into one event. In addition, even among those who appear to accept a pre-tribulation rapture, the term Second Coming is occasionally used without a specific designation to refer to both of these events. Strictly speaking since Christ has come a first time, both of these events would represent a "second coming". And since both aspects of Christ's return hold forth glorious promises for believers, it is not at all inappropriate to think of them both with great hope and eager anticipation (see Greek Verbs)
A number of the New Testament passages are somewhat ambiguous (see examples of these passages) as to which event is intended and one can read diametrically opposite comments by respected scholars that make relatively dogmatic interpretations regarding these ambiguous passages. While these ambiguous passages do at times tend to favor one event over the other event, the distinction is not always sufficiently distinctive to allow one to make the dogmatic statements one encounters in the Christian literature. It is little wonder that this wonderful future event on the Christian's calendar can be a source of some confusion. Furthermore, as I have studied this subject and the passages in question, it seems quite possible that in a number of passages the intended meaning is purposely ambiguous so that believers might be stimulated to anticipate the occurrence of both great eschatological events, the Rapture and the Second Coming.
Today in the Word writes that…
Biblical prophecy provides some of the greatest encouragement and hope available to us today. Just as the Old Testament is saturated with prophecies concerning Christ’s first advent, so both testaments are filled with references to the Second Coming of Christ.
One scholar has estimated that there are 1,845 references to Christ’s Second Coming in the Old Testament, where 17 books give it prominence.
In the 260 chapters of the New Testament, there are 318 references to the second advent of Christ—an amazing 1 out of every 30 verses. Twenty-three of the 27 New Testament books refer to this great event. For every prophecy in the Bible concerning Christ’s first advent, there are 8 which look forward to His second!
Ed Comment: Some of these 318 references are specific and refer to the Rapture while others can be identified as referring specifically to the Second Coming. As allude to above, a careful study of the majority of these 318 passages cannot be specifically identified with one aspect or the other of the Lord's return.
Dr Walvoord echoes the New Testament emphasis of the return of the Lord writing that…
The revelation of the second coming of Christ is one of the most important and most frequently mentioned doctrines of the New Testament. One out of every twenty-five verses in the New Testament refers either to the rapture of the church or to Christ’s coming to reign over the world (cf. Jesse Forrest Silver, The Lord’s Return, p. 29). Though it is not always possible to distinguish references to Christ’s coming for the church from references to His coming to establish His earthly kingdom, there are many passages which clearly present a premillennial coming at the close of the great tribulation to judge the world and to bring in the righteous reign of the King. Approximately twenty major references are found in the New Testament alone (Mt 19:28; 23:39; 24:3-25:46; Mark 13:24-37; Luke 12:35-48; 17:22-37; 18:8; 21:25-28; Acts 1:10-11; 15:16-18; Ro 11:25-27; 1Cor 11:26; 2Thess 1:7, 8, 9,10; 2:8 ; 2Pet 3:3, 4; Jude 1:14,15 ; Rev 1:7-8; 2:25, 26, 27, 28; 16:15; 19:11-21; 22:20). (The Prophetic Context of the Millennium — Part III: The Second Coming of Christ in the New Testament) (Comment: Read the first sentence again. Do you notice how even Dr Walvoord uses "the second coming" as a term to include the Rapture and the Second Coming.)
As noted in the preceding table other designations have been proposed for these two end time events including the division of Christ's return into two phases or two stages. Another designation that has been offered is to refer to these events as Christ's return for His saints (Rapture) or with His saints (Second Coming).
Dr Walvoord, who is without doubt the most influential and respected evangelical writer regarding Biblical study of future events (eschatology) differentiates between the Rapture and the Second Coming writing…
For the sake of brevity, the term rapture or translation is used for the coming of Christ for His church, while the term Second Coming is uniformly used as a reference to His coming to the earth to establish His millennial kingdom, an event which all consider post-tribulational. While the words rapture and translation are not quite identical, they refer to the same event. By the term rapture reference is made to the fact that the church is “caught up” from the earth and taken to heaven. By the term translation the thought is conveyed that those who are thus raptured are transformed in their physical bodies from natural and corruptible bodies to spiritual, incorruptible, and immortal bodies. Strictly speaking, the dead are raised while the living are translated. In common usage, however, this distinction is not normally maintained.
Dr Walvoord adds that…
Though the second coming may not be as important to the total program of God as the first coming, it certainly is without precedent in manifestation of the glory and power of the Triune God. It constitutes the most tremendous intervention of divine power in the entire course of human history…
Just as Scripture concerning the rapture of the church is climactic and determinative in truth revealed about the church, so the second coming is determinative in tracing the future course of Gentiles and Israel in the world, the resurrection of the righteous, and the fulfillment of prophecies concerning the kingdom of God on earth. King of glory. (John Walvoord. Millennial Kingdom - Prophetic Context)
The Tribulation, which we have called one of the "monster subjects" of the Bible, is followed by an even larger one, the doctrine of the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus. One commentator, in writing about the Second Advent has said that the most dramatic event in all history will be the visible appearing of Jesus Christ, and that is probably true. We certainly can say it is the most prophesied event in the Bible. There is no other event of holy Scripture that has so much of the divine revelation given to it as the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus. And as you know, it was one of the subjects that the apostles particularly taught and emphasized. (Ref)
Ed comment: Note that Dr Johnson uses the Second Advent as a synonym for the Second Coming. He also rightly points out that most of the Biblical references are to the visible, earthly return of the King of kings, which would make sense since the church was a mystery in the Old Testament and thus any passages that allude to Messiah's return would "by default" speak be referring to His Second Coming to fulfill His covenant promises (especially regarding the land) to made to Abraham and passed through Isaac to Jacob and in turn to the nation of Israel. (For more detail refer to Dr Walvoord's excellent 8 part series on Israel in Prophecy)
While I humbly agree with both these highly esteemed scholars, the problem arises when one is reading another writer's comments, in which they may use the term "Second Coming" in a more generic and/or a less distinctive manner.
The approach adopted by this website is to refer to Christ's return for His saints as the Rapture and His return with His saints as the Second Coming. If a clear distinction cannot be made in a passage under discussion, that qualifier is added.
The upshot is that if you see the term Second Coming of Christ in the Christian literature, you need to try to discern the author's intended meaning (and this distinction is not always clear from my cursory review). Many times the context of the passage may favor either the Rapture or the Second Coming but that distinction is not always clear as previously noted.
Walvoord comments on the importance of the Second Coming writing…
On every hand one discovers that the Scripture dealing with the second coming is the key to the prophetic future. The important place given the premillennial Second Coming of Christ in Scripture justifies using the term premillennial to describe the whole system of Biblical interpretation which is involved. Just as Scripture concerning the rapture of the church is climactic and determinative in truth revealed about the church, so the second coming is determinative in tracing the future course of Gentiles and Israel in the world, the resurrection of the righteous, and the fulfillment of prophecies concerning the kingdom of God on earth. King of glory. (John Walvoord. Millennial Kingdom - Prophetic Context)
1) Regarding whether the Rapture is "visible" or "invisible" to the unbelieving world, to be completely accurate, it should be noted that Scripture is not absolutely definitive. Thus Dr. John Walvoord writes the following caveat…
His second coming will be a very public event. Everybody will see Him. The rapture of the church may be an event that is quite unseen by the world. Although the Bible never calls it a secret rapture because it is not a secret at least to Christians, it will take place very quickly. First Corinthians 15:52 speaks of the rapture as taking place “in the twinkling of an eye.” The world possibly will only be dimly aware that something has happened until it is all over. (Bolding added; italic emphasis mine) (John Walvoord - Christ’s Olivet Discourse on the End of the Age—Part III: Signs of the End of the Age)
Comment: On the other hand, it should be emphasized that there is certainly no doubt that the Rapture of millions of believers in a moment of time will not be a secret to the shocked and awed unbelieving world!
A devotional from J H Jowett (See J H Jowett's Daily Meditation - March 20)…
THE LORD IS AT HAND!
“Ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.”
—Matthew 24:42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51.
THEN let me always live as though my Lord were at the gate! Let me arrange my affairs on the assumption that the next to lift the latch will be the King. When I am out with my friend, walking and talking, let me assume that just round the corner I may meet the Lord.
And so let me practise meeting Him! Said a mother to me one day concerning her long-absent boy: “I lay a place for him at every meal! His seat is always ready!” May I not do this for my Lord? May I not make a place for Him in all my affairs—my choices, my pleasures, my times of business, my season of rest? He may come just now; let His place be ready!
If He delay, I must not become careless. If He give me further liberty, I must not take liberties with it. Here is the golden principle, ever to live, ever to think, ever to work as though the Lord had already arrived. For indeed, He has, and when the veil is rent I shall find Him at my side.
The influential Christian writer C I Scofield alludes to a "two stage" terminology writing that…
Herb Vander Lugt and Dave Branon rightly that…
J Vernon McGee gives an illustration of the two aspects of Christ's return…
Now let’s make a comparison. At Christmas time we celebrate the birth of Christ. At Easter we commemorate the death and resurrection of Christ. At the incarnation the emphasis is put upon a baby. The Israelites hadn’t been looking for Him to come that way.
As George MacDonald put it,
“They were looking for a king to lift them high. He came a little baby thing that made a woman cry.”
Christ came into the world as a baby. After Jesus’ birth, Scripture is silent. We have no other report until about thirty years later. There is one isolated reference that Dr. Luke gives us, but for thirty years there is a period called the silent years in the life of Christ. That is a very important period, yet we are told almost nothing about it.
Then thirty years later Jesus steps out into public view. He had lived a life of obscurity in that little town of Nazareth. Now He moves out and teaches publicly for three years, then goes to the cross at the end of that three-year period. He is buried and resurrected. This coming of Christ is for redemption. The first aspect or appearance was incarnation; the second aspect or appearance was redemption. Now there is a wide difference between the two—a little Baby (incarnation) and a Man on a cross (redemption). Anyone, I am sure, would recognize the difference. But we do not call that the first and second coming of Christ. We package it up in one coming, which is proper.
We do the same thing for His coming for the church, then later His coming to establish His Kingdom on the earth. We put both in one package—and I can see nothing wrong with that. There is a wide difference, though, between the Rapture and the Revelation. The difference is not only in time. At the Rapture, He comes as the Bridegroom to take His Bride, His church, out of the world. Remember that He does not come to the earth at that time at all. At the Revelation He comes as a King to the earth to establish His Kingdom. (McGee, J. V. On Prophecy: Man's Fascination with the Future. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers)
Arthur Whiting also mentions a "two stage" return of the Lord, writing that…
Note that Whiting refers to the Rapture as the "first aspect" of our Lord's second advent and and the Second Coming as the "second or judgment aspect". Note also that Whiting identifies the verses he feels speak of these two events but some of these designations are far from definitive. For example, he designates 1Thessalonians 5:23 (note) as a reference to the Second Coming while Dr Walvoord says this same verse refers to the Rapture! This example is not to given as a criticism but simply to emphasize that if the experts in eschatology cannot agree which aspect of Christ's return a given verse refers, it is little wonder that the average layman might become confused. Below is 1 Thessalonians 5:23…
Dr Walvoord also writes that…
The following Greek nouns are used to describe both the Rapture and the Second Coming.
The following Greek verbs are frequently associated with the references to the return of the Lord. A survey of the definition of each verb gives a clue as to why they are used to refer to the return of the Lord. And note that virtually every use is in the present tense indicating that they represent the believer's habitual practice or lifestyle! A firm belief in the Biblical doctrine of imminency, will stimulate an eager expectancy for the Bridegroom's return. Let us heed John's warning in his first epistle…
1Thessalonians 1:10 (note) and to wait (anemeno in present tense = as one's lifestyle which would certainly affect one's lifestyle!) for His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, Who rescues (rhuomai) us from the wrath (orge) to come.
Philippians 3:20 (note) For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait (apekdechomai in present tense = as our habitual practice, yea, even our lifestyle!) for a Savior the Lord Jesus Christ (21) 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.
Below are representative Scriptures (not intended to be an exhaustive list) that specifically refer to the Rapture.
There are no Old Testament passages which specifically prophesy of the Rapture of the Church. Some propose that the translations of Enoch and Elijah were predictive of or pointed to the NT Rapture but they still do not specifically prophesy the NT Rapture. Furthermore, since the church is a mystery not revealed in the OT, it is not surprising that an event that effects primarily the NT Church would not be specifically predicted.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
1Thessalonians 4:13 (note) But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.
17 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.
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Corinthians 15:51-58 - This explains what transpires as they are caught up in the clouds and meet the Lord in the air…
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 in a moment (Greek = atomos = indivisible), in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet (not the 7th trumpet in Revelation - see notes 1Thes 4:16; Rev 11:15); for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. 55 "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
2 Thessalonians 2:1
Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together (episunagoge) to Him.
Comment: This passage is a clear reference to the Rapture which Paul had taught about in his first letter.
(Jesus to His disciples) Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come (Literally "I am coming" = present tense) again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
Comment: In the very shadow of His teaching on the Cross, the Lord Jesus Christ reveals the truth that God had another purpose He would fulfill before bringing in the Millennial Kingdom also known as the Messianic Age, that glorious age His Jewish disciples longed to see consummated. Here in John 14, Christ told the disciples that He was going to leave, go to heaven, prepare a place for them in heaven, and come back to receive them to Himself. In other words, Jesus was teaching that before He fulfilled His purpose to bring in the Messianic Kingdom, He would first take them to dwell with Him in the Father’s house in heaven before His return to the earth. This truth was not fully comprehended by early Christians, even as it is not understood by many today, but for those who did grasp it, this truth inspired an attitude of eager anticipation and longing for His return.
Dr. Thomas Ice feels that the following passages speak primarily of the Rapture writing that…
Below are representative Scriptures (not an exhaustive list) that specifically refer to the Second Coming.
This Second Coming is predicted in Daniel 2:44 in Daniel's interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream…
Daniel 7:13-14 is also a prophecy which alludes to the Second Coming, Daniel recording that…
Matthew 24:27-30 (cp Mark 13:24-26, Luke 21:25-27)
For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah… 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.
Comment: Note that this is not a passage supporting the Rapture ("took them all away"), because those taken away are not taken to the bosom of the Lord but to the bottom of Sheol where they will await final sentencing which occurs at the Great White Throne judgment after the Millennium.
Jesus said to him, "You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN."
2 Thessalonians 1:7
and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire
2 Thessalonians 2:8
Below are a few representative Scriptures that are somewhat ambiguous as to whether they refer specifically to the Rapture or to the Second Coming.
Note that in the comments, some of these verses do seem to favor the Rapture over the Second Coming (or vice versa), but the passage (and context) is not absolutely specific. See the example of Titus 2:11-13 which compares the "variegated" interpretations of multiple well known commentators (click here). A similar study could have been presented for many of the passages in this category.
As I have studied these passages and what the commentators have said about each passage, the wide divergence of opinions by excellent expositors is very striking and unpredictable. One comes away with a sense not that the Lord is trying to confuse us but that these passages cannot easily be "pigeon holed" because our Lord wants all believers, whether before the Rapture or after the Rapture and before the Second Coming to live motivated and encouraged/comforted by the sound doctrine that He will return for His own. Such an "interpretation" would be very compatible with our Lord's last uttered words…
And all God's children echo John's cry…
"Maranatha. Our Lord, come!"
1 Corinthians 1:7
But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming,
Comment: This coming would include saints raised at the Rapture and saints (including OT saints) who will be resurrected at the time of the Second Coming.
and to wait (anemeno in present tense = as one's lifestyle which would certainly affect one's lifestyle!) for His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, Who rescues (rhuomai) us from the wrath (orge) to come.
Comment: In the context of this epistle in which Paul was writing to believers whom he knew were waiting for Jesus to return from heaven, this reference is most likely to the Rapture (John MacArthur favors this interpretation - he makes the point that the fact that they were waiting indicates the imminency of the deliverance) however one could not absolutely exclude that it refer so the Second Coming (favored by the KJV Bible Commentary) for their will be those saints who lived during the Tribulation who led others to Christ and their joy will be those eternally saved men and women they were privileged to have a part in leading to faith in Christ.
Spurgeon takes a middle ground declaring: "Oh! This is a high mark of grace, when the Christian expects his Lord to come, and lives like one that expects Him every moment. If you and I knew to-night that the Lord would come before this service was over, in what state of heart should we sit in these pews? In that state of heart we ought to be."
so that He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.
Comment: Most commentators (MacArthur, Constable, McGee) favor this as a reference to the Rapture but a few references (KJV Bible Commentary, Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary) state that Paul refers to the Second Coming in this passage.
John Walvoord writes that "This verse is commonly related to the Rapture of the church, that when Christ comes He will find His church on earth, serving Him effectively. The passage could, however, also be taken in regard to the arrival in heaven of those caught up at the Rapture. In heaven their holiness and faithfulness to God will be especially evident before God the Father and before saints and angels. Paul was not advocating here sinless perfection as something that could be attained in this life, but he does hold that it is possible for a Christian to live in such a way that he will manifest his desire to serve the Lord and be blameless in what he is doing." (Walvoord, J. F. The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books)
1 Timothy 6:14
1 John 3:2-3
Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Comment: See comment above on 1 John 2:28. Again the practical point is that if believers really believe they might see Him any day, they would (or should) be motivated to live in the reality of His imminent return.
RESOURCES RELATED TO
Dr John Walvoord articles relating to various aspects of the return of Christ…
Dr S Lewis Johnson has several transcripts that relate to the Rapture and/or the Second Coming (Pdf)…
Christ’s coming for His church is often designated as the Rapture. This is based on the statement of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 where those who are resurrected, or translated, are “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” The idea of being “caught up” is embraced in the word rapture, or snatched up, and this is what will occur at the time of Christ’s coming for His church.
The Rapture, however, stands in sharp contrast to what will occur at the Second Coming.
Although I favor the interpretation that this passage refers to Christ's return at the Rapture one certainly cannot exclude reference to Christ's return at the end of the Seven Year Tribulation (Daniel's Seventieth Week - a "Week" of 7 Years) specifically after the last 3.5 years of the Great Tribulation. This difficulty probably explains why such excellent expositors as John MacArthur refer to this verse as a reference to the Second Coming and not a specific reference to the Rapture. There is however no question that for those of us in the church age, the application of this truth to our minds congers up the awesome thought of the imminent return of our Bridegroom to catch us up and rescue us from this present evil age before the Seven Year Tribulation (pretrib Rapture) or before the last 3.5 Great Tribulation (if you believe in a midtrib Rapture). For those saints who come to faith during the Seven Year Tribulation, this verse will likewise be a blessed hope as they look for the sure appearing of the King of kings to defeat His enemies and bring in His 1000 year reign on earth.
Although Titus 2:11-13 does not specifically state that it refers to the rapture of the church, the fact that the believers are continually "looking for" this event suggests that Paul is referring to Christ's coming for His saints rather than with His saints. Obviously if you do not hold to a pre-tribulation or even mid-tribulation rapture viewpoint, this would probably not be your interpretation. However, in this section, I will assume that you hold a pre- or mid-tribulation rapture view and that this event is imminent in the sense that no other prophecy needs to be fulfilled in order for it to transpire. Let's look at a few evangelical commentaries to give you a sense of how they vary in their interpretation.
Dr John Walvoord, the late and greatly esteemed dean of evangelical prophecy scholars, writes that…
Henry Thiessen favors Titus 2:13 as a reference primarily to the Rapture writing that…
W A Criswell…
J Vernon McGee…
Hampton Keathley writes that Christ's…
C H Ryrie comments that the blessed hope in Titus 2:11-13 refers to
John MacArthur commenting on Titus 2:11-13 writes…
Disciple's Study Bible commenting on Titus 2:11-13 writes that…
William MacDonald comments on the phrase blessed hope and the appearing writing that…
Bible Knowledge Commentary (A. Duane Litfin)…
KJV Study Bible…
Life Application Bible Commentary…
The Preacher's Commentary…
R Kent Hughes, R. K. and Bryan Chapell…
Imminent - An adjective from the Latin word imminens from imminere = to hang or project over. Literally, imminent means hanging or projecting over. Impending.
It is important to note that from the table comparing the two aspects of Christ's return, that His return is both knowable and unknowable! In other words, there are signs that will occur prior to the Second Coming ("knowable") whereas the Rapture has no preceding signs (unknowable). In this section, we will discuss the "unknowable" aspect of the Lord's return, a doctrine that Bible scholars refer to as imminency.
J Vernon McGee asks…
Dwight Pentecost writes that…
A W Pink explains imminency this way writing that…
Tony Garland explains that…
Just as “quickly” is used in Revelation to teach imminence, so also is “near” or “at hand” (engus) used to mean imminency and thus its usage does not support a first-century fulfillment. Philip E. Hughes rightly says, “The time is near, that is to say, the time of fulfillment is imminent. This interval between the comings of Christ is the time of the last days, and the last of these last days is always impending.” … It is better to see engus as a term that teaches the imminency of a period of time that could begin to happen without the warning of signs. (Thomas Ice, The End Times Controversy Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003)
Dr Reginald Showers has an excellent "definition" of the doctrine of imminency as understood by conservative evangelical premillennial scholars…
Dr John Walvoord has the following "bullet points" on the Doctrine of Imminency…
William MacDonald the godly Plymouth Brethren writer who went home to be with our Lord in 2007 wrote these poignant words regarding the effect that the truth of the Bridegroom's imminent return should have on His Bride, the Church…
For believers the hope of the imminent return of Christ has practical implications of vast significance.
For those who are not believers, the truth of Christ’s return should lead them to repent of their sins and make a full commitment of their lives to him as Lord and Savior. Only those who are in Christ will go to be with Him at the Rapture. The rest will be left behind for judgment. (MacDonald, W & Farstad, A. Believer's Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson)
The saintly Presbyterian pastor Robert Murray McCheyne was known to on occasion ask people
During World War II occurred early in the war when the Japanese army stormed the Philippines and forced United States General Douglas MacArthur to leave the islands. Upon leaving the Philippines, General MacArthur declared his famous promise, “I shall return.” And he did, walking ashore a victor at Leyte in the Philippines several years later. In an even more famous quote, the Captain of the hosts, the Lord Jesus Christ declared to His fearful band of disciples “I will come again” (John 14:3)
He that rose from the clods we expect from the clouds. - Thomas Adams
A little while—then Christ will come;
Christ’s second coming is as certain as His first.
When it comes to belief in the Lord's return there are two kinds of Christians—gazers and goers.
He is coming! Oh, the rapture
Christ is coming—perhaps today!
A Scottish preacher once said, “The doctrine of the Lord’s second coming, as it appears in the New Testament, is like a lofty mountain that dominates the entire landscape.” Commenting on that statement, author A. J. Gordon adds, “No matter what road you take, no matter what pass you tread, you will find the mountain bursting on your vision at every turn of the way, and at every parting of the hills. What first struck me in reading the New Testament was this: Whatever doctrine I was pursuing, whatever precept I was enforcing, I found it fronting toward and terminating in the hope of the Lord’s second coming. All paths of obedience and service lead on to that mountain.” Someone has pointed out that there are more than 300 references to Christ’s return in the New Testament. One fact is clear—Jesus is coming back. Each day we are getting closer to that climactic moment. Today could be the day! - Our Daily Bread
The Lord has said He will return
Don't complain about what this world is coming to.
He who loves the coming of the Lord is not he who affirms it is far off, nor is it he who says it is near. It is he who, whether it be far or near, awaits it with sincere faith, stead-fast hope and fervent love. - Augustine
That day lies hid that every day we be on the watch. - Augustine
The certainty of the Second Coming of Christ should touch and tincture every part of our daily behavior. - John Blanchard
In the first advent God veiled his divinity to prove the faithful; in the second advent he will manifest his glory to reward their faith. -Chrysostom
The only remedy for all this mass of misery is the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Why do we not plead for it every time we hear the clock strike? - Anthony Ashley Cooper
As Christians, we should not be exitists, looking for our going, but adventists, looking for his coming. - William Freel
The subject of the second coming of Christ has never been popular to any but the true believer. - Billy Graham
Christ hath told us he will come, but not when, that we might never put off our clothes, or put out the candle. - William Gurnall
Oh, the joy to see thee reigning, Thee, my own beloved Lord! Every tongue thy name confessing, Worship, honour, glory, blessing, Brought to thee with glad accord—Thee, my Master and my Friend, Vindicated and enthroned, Unto earth's remotest end Glorified, adored and owned! - Frances Ridley Havergal
Christ will come when he pleases, to show his sovereignty, and will not let us know when, to teach us our duty. - Matthew Henry
If this (Second Coming) is not an integral part of the faith once given to the saints, I do not know what is. - C. S. Lewis
Precisely because we cannot predict the moment, we must be ready at all moments. - C. S. Lewis
The primitive church thought a great deal more about the coming of Christ than about death, and thought a great deal more about his coming than about heaven. - Alexander Maclaren
I never preach a sermon without thinking that possibly the Lord may come before I preach another. - D. L. Moody
Christ is coming to the earth, in such form at least as shall fulfil his purposes of mercy to his friends and justice to his foes. - Thomas V. Moore
I never begin my work in the morning without thinking that perhaps he may interrupt my work and begin his own. I am not looking for death, I am looking for him. - G. Campbell Morgan
There is such a danger of our being so occupied with the things that are to come more than with him who is to come. - Andrew Murray
Millions of graves are dug every year, but it is inspiring to think that one generation of Christians will cheat the undertaker. - J. C. Pollock
The return of Christ represents not only the ultimate sense of accountability but the ultimate sense of hope as well. - RBC Booklet
Oh, that Christ would make long strides! Oh, that he would fold up the heavens as a cloak, and shovel time and days out of the way! - Samuel Rutherford
There shall be no time for parting words or a change of mind when the Lord appears. -J. C. Ryle
Uncertainty about the date of the Lord's return is calculated to keep believers in an attitude of constant expectation and to preserve them from despondency. - J. C. Ryle
If I knew that our Lord would come this evening, I should preach just as I mean to preach; and if I knew he would come during this sermon, I would go on preaching until he did. - C. H. Spurgeon
Oh, that the Lord would come! He is coming! He is on the road and travelling quickly. The sound of his approach should be as music to our hearts! - C. H. Spurgeon
The fact that Jesus Christ is to come again is not a reason for star-gazing, but for working in the power of the Holy Ghost. - C. H. Spurgeon
Since he may come any day, it is well to be ready every day. - J. Hudson Taylor
He who came in humility and shame will return in spectacular magnificence. - John R. W. Stott
The imminent return of our Lord is the great Bible argument for a pure, unselfish, devoted, unworldly, active life of service. - R. A. Torrey
This is pinned as a badge to the sleeve of every true believer—that he looks for and longs for Christ's coming to judgement. - John Trapp
The Christian hope is not a matter for tickling our minds, but for changing our minds and influencing society. - Stephen Travis
I am daily waiting for the coming of the Son of God. - George Whitefield
The brightness of Christ's advent will reveal the true character of those things which were previously hidden by darkness. - Geoffrey B. Wilson