The coming of the Lord is two‑fold in nature. He will first reveal Himself to His people. After this He will be manifested to the entire world as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Between these two appearances are the end-time judgments of God, which will lead into the third day, the Millennial Kingdom. This is a part of the restoration of mankind to the original intention of the Lord when He formed Adam and gave him dominion over all that was created upon the earth.
The first day began with the transgression of Adam, and lasted until Jesus came on the scene. The second day includes all that Jesus said and did, together with the ministry of the Church. During the second day, the Church Age, Jesus is in the mist of His Church.
“And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned, I saw seven golden lamp stands; And in the midst of the seven lamp stands I saw one like the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and tied around the breast with a golden band.” Revelation 1:12-13
After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His people, but no one else saw Him. In II Thessalonians 1:10 we read that He will first be glorified in His saints, during the approaching time of His return.
“When He shall come to be glorified in His saints and to be admired in all those who believe….” II Thessalonians 1:10
The primary purpose for Jesus coming to His Church first is to prepare them for their part in the judgments of God upon the earth.
The messages to the seven Churches in the book of Revelation span the entire Church Age and addresses the needs within each of these Churches, to correct and purify those who are called to become overcomers. Therefore, at the end of each message, Jesus said, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches.”
The second reason for His coming to His Church first is to cleanse and purify her by the washing of the water of the Word, so that He can present to Himself a Bride without spot or wrinkle.
Following this is the revelation of the Son of Man to the entire world for the final judgments which will lead into the establishing of the Kingdom of God. It is important for us to understand that the second coming of Jesus cannot be separated from the establishment of the Kingdom.
This fulfills the word concerning dominion, which the Lord spoke to Adam when He created him. Adam was to have dominion over the earth and all that exists on it. This dominion was forfeited to Satan and the principalities who presently rule from their usurped place in the heavens.
Thus, the purpose of the end-time appearances of Jesus to His Church is the preparation of those within the Church, who as overcomers, will reign with Him as the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
“And preaching the gospel to that city, and having made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, and Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, calling on them to continue in the faith, and that through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:21-22
It is through “tribulation” that we are prepared for the Kingdom of God. The word “tribulation” means “to put pressure on.”
This is more than the many daily pressures (tribulations) that we face in our lives. There is a “great tribulation” in which an intense pressure from the enemy will come against us. If we are not presently feeling a measure of this pressure, then we may be less than fully committed to the Lord.
Therefore, there is a positive confession that each of us should make -
“Lord, no matter what you may allow, in order to perfect my life for
Your purposes, I totally submit myself to You, and to these things.”
It is very important that we understand that these pressures are not the result of the Lord being angry with us; nor are they punishment. Rather, He is seeking to produce a quality within us that will enable us to stand and endure, in that day.
“And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from the heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.” Matthew 24:29
This does not mean that the sun will no longer give light, or that the moon will cease to shine at night. Rather, this refers to a change in the authorities of the spiritual world.
Revelation 12:3-4 tells us that these stars which fell from the sky are fallen angels; the principalities, powers, and rulers of the darkness, in this present Age. They will loose their authority and power in the time of the second coming, which authority and power will be given to the overcomers.
This is a prelude to the judgments of God, which are about to take place.
“And then the sign of the Son of man shall appear in the heavens. And then all the tribes of the earth shall mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Matthew 24:30
After the Lord removes this usurped authority from these fallen angels, His sign will appear in the sky. This “sign” will be His appearing to the entire world in a demonstration of power and glory.
In Matthew chapter twenty four, the Lord is referred to several times as the “son of man.” This is Jesus, but it is more than that. The son is always the fruit of whatever His father was. The Greek word for man, “anthropos,” comes from a basic word, “aner.”
“Aner” means nothing more than the natural, physical creation of a human being. Therefore, there is a very important reason as to why Jesus introduces Himself in His second coming as the “Son of Man,” and not as the “Son of God.”
It is to let the world know that He who is Deity had, in condescension, taken upon Himself the form of man in order to bring redemption. Then in resurrection, He has chosen to abide in this form upon the earth. Man was created to be a resident of this earth, and Jesus has eternally identified Himself with man, as the “Son of Man.”
When the Son of Man appears in the sky, all the tribes of the earth will mourn as a result of seeing Him. That which they had chosen to not believe will have become a reality, and now they must face the consequences of their rejection of Him.
Before this appearance, the demonic forces will have had their authority suddenly taken from them. Thus, when Jesus is seen by all the world, the ungodly will have been stripped of the authority which they had, while under the control of Satan. They had denied and maligned Jesus; now they will mourn, for they will see Him for who He really is.
“And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” Matthew 24:31
The New American Standard version translates the word that we call “heavens” as “the sky.” This better illustrates the intent of the original, which is the space that is seen as a blue canopy over the earth. He will move through this space into the north, the south, the east, and the west, to gather the saints.
“Now learn a parable of the fig tree. When its branch is still tender, and puts out leaves, you know that summer is near. So you, likewise, when you see all these things, shall know that it is near, at the doors.” Matthew 24:32-33
There is a morning star that is already shining in the skies, and the buds are beginning to form on the fig tree.
The fruit of the fig tree literally pops out from the bark. Therefore the bark, which is rough and hard, must become soft so it can yield to the sprout of a fruit. Therefore, when we see the fig tree (Israel) begin to soften, we will recognize that this is the time in which we are to be ready.
“So you, likewise, when you see all these things, shall know that it is near, at the doors. Truly I say to you, this generation shall not pass until all these things are fulfilled. The heaven and the earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.” Matthew 24:33-35
The word “pass away” means “to disappear.” The ungodly will seek to disappear because they do not want to face all that is about to happen. “This generation” can be translated as “this people.” These are the redeemed who will not seek to disappear or pass away, but will be ready to be with Jesus, as He returns.
The Lord is saying, “I am coming, and my Word will not disappear or pass away. Therefore, you should prepare for My return.” This does not say that the saints will disappear in some sudden rapture.
“But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not the angels of heaven, but only My Father.” Matthew 24:36
There is a wisdom as to why God did not reveal a time or date when Jesus will return. Had He done so, we could put off getting ready until almost that time. The disciples had asked when this would take place. The answer Jesus gave was to explain the circumstances that would exist at that time.
“But as the days of Noah were, so shall be the coming of the Son of Man.” Matthew 24:37
Thus, His return will be in a time that is similar to the days in which Noah lived.
“For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered into the ark.” Matthew 24:38
They were occupied with the every day things of life, and laughed at Noah for building a boat on dry land. When Noah entered the ark, it was God who shut the door of protection. The people did not understand until it was too late, when the flood came and took them away. It will be this way again, at the coming of the Lord.
“Then two shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” Matthew 24:40
The meaning of the word “be taken” is “to be taken hold of, embraced, and become associated with someone.” It is comparable to my taking my wife into my arms. Thus it is taking unto one’s self whatever is to be taken. The word for “left” is a word which means “to be forsaken.” It is very important that our understanding of these words is correct.
“...God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared in which a few, that is, eight souls were saved through water.” I Peter 3:20
The Lord embraced these eight souls by putting an “ark” around them. Then He Himself closed the door and they were safe. When the Son of Man comes, He will not take us and fly away. The ark did not go up to heaven, rather it stayed on the earth, rising on top of the waters of judgment.
“Through which the world that then was, being flooded by water, perished. But the present heavens and the earth, being kept in store by the same word, are being kept for fire until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” II Peter 3:6-7
There will be another holocaust. But this time it will not be a flood, but rather, a fire. This fire will result in the complete destruction of all that the greed of man, through the deception of the devil, has accomplished upon the earth. It will be wiped clean by fire.
During this time, the Son of God will embrace His people. Just as those eight people were spared in the universal destruction of all mankind by water, the Lord will save the redeemed in the midst of the fire, but He will forsake the rest.
It is those who have rejected Him that will be gone, or destroyed in this fire. This is not a flying away process, but rather, Jesus is coming to embrace those who are the redeemed, and who have overcome by responding to His words when He was in the midst of the Church.
The Lord has provided a way for us to know that we will be in the “ark” of His protection, which He will put around us.
“Do not hurt the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.” Revelation 7:3
This is announced by the Lord just before the seventh seal is to be opened. Six seals will have already been opened and there will have been a wave of judgments in which the nations are shaken. We will be able to survive these, as we stay faithful.
Then before the next wave of judgment comes, God will place upon us a seal which will cause us to be embraced, or drawn to Him, into His ark of protection above this time of tribulation.
Immediately after the application of this protection, the seventh seal will be opened and the next wave of judgments will begin, which are called the trumpets. After this, there will be an interlude, which will be followed by another wave of judgments, in which the vials of God’s wrath will be poured out.
We will see all this take place, but we will be above it, as overcomers. We will survive, just as the three Hebrew children survived the fiery furnace, with Jesus appearing in their midst. There will not be even the smell of smoke on us. When these judgments are finished, the Lord will take the Babylonish world system and throw it into the lake of fire.
In the light of this, we will consider I Thessalonians 4:16‑18.
“For the Lord Himself shall 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.”
“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 so we shall ever be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
This has been the stock and trade of the “rapturists.” It begins saying, “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven.” The word “descend” means that He will come down out of heaven. The word for “heaven” is “orano” which means the “abode of God.”
Jesus is coming down from heaven with a shout. This shout is a “cry of command” concerning the things that are about to take place. Jesus is coming as a commander in chief, the King.
Following this is the voice of the Archangel. There are two that have been identified in the Scriptures; Gabriel and Michael. Gabriel announced to Mary the coming of Jesus as a baby. Now He is announcing the coming of Jesus as the King.
The second archangel is Michael. He fought the devil and his hosts in behalf of Daniel. Michael is the general of the armies of God. He is under the direction of the Commander in Chief, to war against His enemies.
Revelation Chapter 12 tells us that Michael and his hosts fought against the devil and his hosts, and threw them out of heaven. Following this is the “trumpet of God.” This is the song of the Lord, which is the means by which we are to introduce Jesus to the entire world as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
The dead in Christ will rise first. This refers to the bodies of those who died and have gone to heaven being raised to be joined to their spirits. Then those of us who are yet alive will be caught up, as we see the graves open.
The word “caught up” does not mean our being taken up into heaven. Rather it means “to be literally taken to oneself.” This is the same as “being taken,” or “embraced.” Jesus is taking unto Himself all the dead who come forth from the grave along with those of us who are still alive, and together we are gathered into the arms of the Lord.
We will meet the Lord in the air. The word for “air” is not heaven, but rather the atmosphere that we breathe while we are standing here on this earth. This is not telling us that we are going up from the earth, but that we will remain here on the earth. Let us consider what the angel said to the disciples after Jesus ascended and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
“…This same Jesus who is taken up from you into Heaven, will come in the way you have seen Him going into Heaven.” Acts 1:11
Thus, He is coming back to the place where His feet were when He was taken up. He was standing on the ground with His disciples.
There are several phrases in Matthew chapters 24-25 that are imperative for us to consider. These are commands on the part of the Lord that will result in all these things taking place.
“Therefore watch; for you do not know what hour your Lord comes.” Matthew 24:42
“Therefore you also be ready, for in that hour you think not, the Son of Man comes” Matthew 24:44
“Watch... be ready.” No matter how, or when we may feel the Lord will return, the important thing is for us to be ready.
Matthew chapter twenty five compares the Kingdom of Heaven to ten virgins who went out to meet their Bridegroom. Of these, five were wise and five were foolish. Those who were wise did not know the time of his coming, but were ready. The foolish put off becoming ready, until it was too late.
Then when the Lord came at an unexpected time, the foolish asked the wise for some of their oil, but were told to go and buy for themselves. In so doing, they missed the time of entrance into His Kingdom. Thus, the important thing is for us to become ready in this present time, in anticipation of His return.
“Our God is the God of salvation; and to the Lord are the issues of death.” Psalm 68:20
This can be translated, “to the Lord belongs escape from death.” He is telling us that we will not be overcome in this time of tribulation, which will burn, or purify the earth.
We will be saved from this time of tribulation, and we will become an instrument of God's judgment on the earth. This will demonstrate to the world that these judgments come from the Throne of God, by the fact that we are able to survive them.
There are within the Church those who name the Name of Jesus as their Savior. But within these are those who are overcomers; those who have fully committed their lives to the Lord and have been tested and proven faithful. These will not only survive, but they will be the instruments of the coming judgment. The rest, the main body of the Church, will be kept and protected by the Lord.
We are not called to understand how the Lord will do this, but rather, we are to be ready in that day, when He returns in manifested glory, to be joined to Him as a member of His manifested body.
Jesus is about to return to establish His Kingdom on the earth, and those who are overcomers will rule and reign with Him. We will not be raptured out of this world, but will remain here on the earth, not as victims of God’s universal judgments, but as overcomers and instruments of His judgments, which will lead to our ruling with Him in the Millennial Kingdom.
Regardless of our view of these things, there is one thing on which we all agree; Jesus is coming soon.