Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Are the Rapture and the Return of Christ the Same Event?

Dare To Ask The Question

The goal here is not to definitively answer the question, "Are the Rapture and the Return of Christ the Same Event?" Rather, it is to entertain the question as one worth asking. So, does it matter? It does. If the Return of Christ is the same event as the Rapture, then believers should be prepared to recognize the man of sin when he is revealed and be prepared to suffer his wrath. If the two events straddle the tribulation period, then believers can be certain that no matter how many of the Antichrist's characteristics a world leader may fulfill, if they have yet to be raptured, then it certainly cannot be him. 

Once an opinion is formed, the question doesn't get asked. Among a certain crowd, such a question is near heresy. But believers opinions and feelings should always be pushed into the background, so the Bible can speak. And if the Bible does not come out and explicitly say that the two are one in the same nor that they are separate events, believers should look at what the Bible does say. And what the Bible does say about the Rapture does sound at least similar to what it says about the Return of Christ.

The Parousia

First, both the Rapture and the Return of Christ are referred to as Jesus' "coming". When used like this, it is not an action, but an event. It is not saying "Jesus is coming", but rather something about "Jesus' coming". The word that is translated that way is the Greek word parousia.

From the Lexham Theological Wordbook:
παρουσία (parousia). n. fem. presence, arrival, advent. In the New Testament, it can refer to the future arrival and presence of Jesus at the end of the age.

This word has a general sense of “presence” or “arrival” (i.e., becoming present). In non-Christian literature it sometimes has the special sense of a visit from an important figure, such as royalty or a deity. In the New Testament it sometimes refers to merely human visits (e.g., 1 Cor 16:17, Phil 1:26), but often has a specialized sense referring to the advent of Christ’s presence. Christ’s coming (parousia) will be obvious (Matt 24:27; 2 Thess 2:1) and sudden (Matt 24:37–39), though with some warning signs (Matt 24:3). This advent (parousia) will be for judgment (e.g., 2 Thess 2:8; 2 Peter 3:11–12), and believers should be prepared so they can be blameless and rejoice at Christ’s arrival (parousia; e.g., 1 Thess 2:19; 3:13; 4:15); in the meantime, they wait patiently for it (Jas 5:7–8; 2 Peter 3:4).
Austin, B. M. (2014). Divine Presence. D. Mangum, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, & R. Hurst (Eds.), Lexham Theological Wordbook. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  • Rapture Passages
    • 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 will by no means precede those who are asleep. 1 Thessalonians 4:15 (NKJV)
    • Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 Thessalonians 2:1 (NKJV)
    • And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 2 Thessalonians 2:8 (NKJV)
  • Return of Christ Passages
    • For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Matthew 24:27 (NKJV)
    • For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 1 Corinthians 15:22–23 (NKJV)


Trumpets

Trumpets figure prominently into the Bible's description of the Rapture and of the Return of Christ.

  • Rapture Passages
    • 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 Corinthians 15:52 (NKJV)
    • 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. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 (NKJV)
  • Return of Christ Passages
    • 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. Matthew 24:31 (NKJV)
    • So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. ...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!” Revelation 8:6, 11:15 (NKJV)



Clouds

Jesus is coming in the clouds! At the Rapture. And at the Return of Christ!

  • Rapture Passages
    • 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 Thessalonians 4:17 (NKJV)
  • Return of Christ Passages
    • 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 Matthew 24:30 (NKJV)
    • Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. Revelation 1:7 (NKJV)
    • Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. Revelation 14:14 (NKJV)

Angels

Angelic beings are named in both the Rapture and the Return of Christ.

  • Rapture Passages
    • 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. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 (NKJV)
  • Return of Christ Passages
    • 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. Matthew 24:31 (NKJV)
    • For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels. Luke 9:26 (NKJV)
    • And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” Revelation 14:15 (NKJV)

Gathering Together


Finally, at both the Rapture and the Return of Christ, Jesus will gather his people together.

  • Rapture Passages
    • 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 Thessalonians 4:17 (NKJV)
      Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 Thessalonians 2:1 (NKJV)
  • Return of Christ Passages
    • 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. Matthew 24:31 (NKJV)
    • And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” Revelation 14:15 (NKJV)

His coming, trumpets, clouds, angels, and gatherings, oh my! Please note, this is not an answer to the question, "Are the Rapture and the Return of Christ the Same Event?" But it does demonstrate there are a great number of common elements in the descriptions of both events. Are they the same event? This is a conclusion that an individual will need to come to as they study everything the Bible has to say on the subject(s). But given the similarities, it would seem absurd not to at least ask the question. 

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