As never before in history there is an increasing preoccupation with the subject of the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. The return of Israel to their land, the tremendous multiplication of knowledge, the potential for massive worldwide destruction from nuclear war, and the rapid increase in communica- tion technology (permitting the Gospel to penetrate everywhere in the world), are some of the phenomena that cause serious Bible students to wonder if we have come very close to the end of time.
Naturally those who have placed their trust in the Bible as the only reliable source of information concerning the future will look to the Bible in regards to the end-time events. One of the events that give great comfort to the child of God is the rapture of the believers. By the word rapture, we have in mind that moment in history when the believers in Christ who have not experi- enced physical death will be changed into their glorified bodies. At that time, they will be caught up in the air to be with Christ, as I Thessalonians
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 says "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, that you do not sorrow, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so those also who sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump 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."
Some Christians say the word "rapture" is not in the scriptures. Well, it depends on what scriptures you're talking about! The Latin Vulgate Bible is the Latin translation of the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts by Jerome completed around 405 A.D., and it does have that word in the section of scripture we are going to look at right now.
The portion highlighted above in this color in the Latin Vulgate reads: "deinde nos qui vivimus qui relinquimur simul rapiemur cum illis in nubibus obviam Domino in aera et sic semper cum Domino erimus". The Latin word for "shall be caught up" is "rapiemur". The Latin dictionary says that root for the Latin word "rapiemur" is "rapio" which it says means "to seize , snatch, tear away; to hurry along a person or thing". In Latin endings are tacked on for case, number, gender, tense, etc. One ending is "raptus" for example. Many words are "transliterated" directly into English with English endings added. For example the Greek "βαπτισμ" transliterates letter for letter to "baptism" in English. There you have it. "Rapture" is a scriptural word...just in a different language (translation)!
Even though it is a scriptural word, because of the association of the word "rapture" with levitation in Hinduistic, Persian, and occultic literature and also in spiritualist circles in the United States and Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries, some Christians do not want to use this term to describe the wonderful event described in these verses.
Since the strength of the event is so well described by this choice of the Greek word by the Holy Spirit, it is obvious that some human beings (i.e. Christians saved at this time - both physically living and dead) will get new resurrection bodies and be caught up into the clouds to be with Jesus forever. This event is what the Holy Spirit, Paul and many Christians refer to as the "catching away, seizing or snatching away" of Christians and some other Christians refer to as the Rapture. It may be time for Christians to claim back this word for this blessed event.
Now the root Greek word for "shall be caught up" is "harpazo" <Strongs's concordance #726> and means "to seize, catch up, carry off by force, snatch out or away" which is pretty much the same meaning as "rapiemur"...which is probably why Jerome translated that way!
So, it really does not matter if a person doesn't like the word "rapture", the meaning of either the Latin or Greek word, "to seize, catch up, carry off by force, snatch out or away" describes the essence and nature of the event in this scripture passage very, very well. Paul said he got this from the Lord Jesus "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord" (verse 15) - maybe he saw it in a vision - and "I would not have you to be ignorant, brothers" (verse13), and he is educating us to TRUTH and doesn't want us to be ignorant of what the Lord Jesus says! If believers are going to be "seized, caught up, carried off by force, snatched away" to meet the Lord "IN THE CLOUDS...IN THE AIR", that ought to be good enough for us too!
With that in mind, take a look at all the places in the New Testament where "harpazo" is used and see how it is used:
Matthew 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take <726> it by force <726>.
Matthew 13:19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away <726> that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
John 6:15 When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take <726> him by force <726>, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.
John 10:12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth <726> them, and scattereth the sheep. [How does a wolf get a sheep? "Harpazo" meaning "to seize, catch up, carry off by force, snatch out or away" fits here pretty good....wouldn't you say? Well, it's the same way Christians will be "caught away to meet the Lord in the air"!]
John 10:28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall <726> any man pluck <726> them out of my hand.
John 10:29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck <726> them out of my Father's hand.
Acts 8:39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away <726> Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found at Azotus. [Note earlier in this section that the angel told Philip to catch up and intercept this man traveling by chariot from Jerusalem to Gaza on a desert route. Take a look of a map of Israel to understand the significance of his being "caught away". Now if Philip was "caught away" from the closest part of that route to Azotus, he would have been "caught away " 10 miles minimum. If it was not at the closest point, it would have been more than 10 miles. How would you like to travel that way with no chariot or car? Well, that is how Christians, who are alive when Jesus comes, will be caught up to Him.]
Acts 23:10 And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take <726> him by force <726> from among them, and to bring him into the castle.
2 Corinthians 12:2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up <726> to the third heaven...4 How that he was caught up <726> into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. [It is believed by most Bible scholars that Paul was speaking humbly about himself being "caught up" because in verses 1-8 he says he does not want to glory in the amount of visions and revelations God gave him.]
1 Thessalonians 4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up <726> together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Jude 1:23 And others save with fear, pulling <726> them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
Revelation 12:4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child (i.e. Jesus) as soon as it was born. 5 And she brought forth a man child (i.e. Jesus), who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child (i.e. Jesus) was caught up <726> (i.e. his ascension to heaven 40 days after his resurrection) unto God, and to his throne.
Note that "harpazo" always means to catch, seize, pluck, or take something by force or power. It does not talk of some vague, weak action, but a strong, powerful, violent removal of something. All the verses in red deal with people changing location supernaturally...going from one place on earth to another place on earth, or going to the third heaven, or paradise, or to the throne of God. Why would being caught up to the clouds in the air in 1 Thes. 4:17 be any different? Well, it isn't!
This event is equated again by both Paul and the Holy Spirit to be one and the same as the Resurrection of 1 Cor. 15:35, 51-52. This being the case, then Jesus had very pointed statements as to when these 2 events would take place and at this point, we can now take a look at the 4 times Jesus told us what day would be the day of the Resurrection or the "snatching away"
You will be amazed at the four times in the gospels that Jesus told us when the Resurrection would take place because you have probably read them many times and never really noticed a phrase of three particular words repeated and grasped their significance. Have you ever heard or read them before? Here are those 4 passages:
1) "And this is the Father's will who has sent me, that of all whom He has given me I should lose none, but should raise him up again at the last day." (John 6:39) Dear Reader, are you one that the Father has given to Jesus? If so, Jesus said He would raise you up on the last day!
2) "And this is the will of him who sent me…that every one who sees the Son and believes on Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day". (John 6:40) Dear Reader, are you one that has believed on the Son? If so, Jesus said He would give you eternal life and raise you up on the last day!
3) "No man can come to Me, except the Father who has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44) Dear Reader, are you one that the Father has drawn to Jesus? If so, Jesus said He would raise you up on the last day!
4) "Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:54) Dear Reader, are you one that has eaten His flesh and drank His blood and has eternal life? If so, Jesus said He would raise you up on the last day!
Jesus tells us 4 times, "…I will raise him up at the last day", but precedes that statement by telling us who he will raise, and most Christians would have to say those 4 preceding descriptions include them! So, Christians would be raised on the Last Day. Do they include you? If so, you will be raised on the last day too!
When is the Last Day? That is a good question and deserves an honest answer. In Mt. 24:3 "...the disciples came to Him privately, saying, Tell us, 'When shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?'" (Note on the word "age" in the verse just quoted: The King James Version translates the Greek word "aeon" as "world" whereas Greek lexicons translates it "age", meaning "an unbroken age, perpetuity of time". In fact "aeon" transliterates directly into English as "aeon" or "eon" (look both words up in your English dictionary) from which we have a popular expression…"I haven't seen him for eons (of time)!" They are saying in effect, "I haven't seen him for ages." The world will not end when Jesus comes back; the age will. "Age" is the correct translation for "aeon".)
Then Jesus gives his reply starting in the next verse. Note the high lighted parts:
4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.
10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
Jesus concludes the answer in verses 29-31 with his coming at the end of the age:
29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Jesus concludes his answer to "when is the end of the age" by giving the signs of his Second Coming to planet Earth. This is the END OF THE AGE! Other time expressions occur in the Bible like the "last times", the "last time", the "latter days", the "latter day", the "last days" (you will recall Acts 2:17 "in the last days, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh...") and here under discussion, the "last day".
On the prophetic calendar these time periods go from the most general and broad times to the most specific and narrow times. So, the last day is the last day of the last days or latter days, which are part of the last time, which is part of the last times in the reverse order. What could be simpler? The Last Day is the last day of the Age.
But is it a 24-hour day? Yes it is. Look at the following scriptures to see that. The theme of "the Day of the Lord" is almost totally neglected by today's church and to many Christians has no relevance to anything. That is a shame because it is one of the largest and most mentioned themes in the prophetical books of the Old Testament. After you finish reading this page, go to HOW DOES THE DAY OF THE LORD RELATE TO THE RAPTURE? to study this fascinating subject.
Zephaniah 1:14 The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. 15 That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, 16 A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.
The following passage talks about the same event and really makes it clear that it is a 24-hour day.
Zechariah 14:1 Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. 2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. 4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. 5 And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. 6 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: 7 But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light. 8 And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. 9 And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.
Take a look at verses 6 and 7 in two other translations...
6 On that day there will be neither sunlight nor cold, frosty darkness. 7 It will be a unique dayï¿½a day known only to the Lordï¿½with no distinction between day and night. When evening comes, there will be light. - NIV
6 It shall come to pass in that day
That there will be no light;
The lights will diminish.
7 It shall be one day
Which is known to the Lordï¿½
Neither day nor night.
But at evening time it shall happen
That it will be light. - NKJV
6 On that day the sources of light will no longer shine, 7 yet there will be continuous day! Only the Lord knows how this could happen. There will be no normal day and night, for at evening time it will still be light. - NLT
The language in these various translations make it clear that this day is a 24-hour day. Obviously, "the last day" is a 24 hour day. Paul says the Resurrection (of Christians) will be in the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor. 15:52) and how long does that take? It certainly can't occupy more than one day because it is one split second! Incidentally, if there were two phases of one Resurrection separated by 7 years, as some people teach, wouldn't there have to be TWO "twinklings of an eye"? Paul would have had to been mistaken in telling us that there was only ONE!
There are still more "at the last day" scriptures we haven't looked at yet, but when have you ever heard an End Time expositor consider what Jesus had to say in these scriptures about when he says the Resurrection will take place? Let's take a look at another such scripture. It is John 11:24 where Martha, even with limited teaching from Jesus, understood the simple truth of when Jesus would "raise ALL believers". "Martha says to Him, 'I know that he [Lazarus] shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.'" How much better should we know it? So we may not know the particular "day or hour" of the Resurrection on the calendar, but we can know that it is on the "last day" of the Age!
Now since all Christians will be resurrected on the Last Day, then this event is described in different ways in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-55 and Matthew 24:29-31. Many Christians have been taught that Mt. 24 is for the Jew after Christians have been "snatched out" to be with the Lord (1 Thes. 4:15-17). However, as it can now be understood that Christians will be raised or changed on the Last Day of the Age, it can be seen that Mt. 24 is really for all believers and applies to Christians (Jew or Gentile) on Earth during that time. Thus, Mt. 24 is far more relevant than what so many have realized. Let's take a look and see what Jesus has to say to us.
Open your Bible to Mt. 24 and take a closer look at the end time events that Jesus gives and notice that they are basically in chronological order as indicated by a liberal supply of time-order indicators like "then" in verses 9, 10, 11, 14, 16, 21, 23, 30, 40, "not yet" in verse 6, "therefore when" in verse 15, and "immediately after" in verse 29. These time-ordering indicators makes it easy to see the chain of events that will happen. They are of the utmost importance in a proper end-time sequence to determine the timing of the rapture. This whole discourse of Jesus in Mt. 24 was preceded by the disciples asking 3 questions in verse 3: When will these things happen? What will be the sign of your coming? What will be the sign of the end of the age? Jesus answers them in verses 4 through 31. Read along in your Bible. Here is the order of events:
1) verses 4-8:
Jesus says this period is the "beginning of sorrows" (verse 8) before the tribulation of verse 9 for "the end is not yet" (verse 6). It is the time of escalating political unrest, famines, disease, and geological disturbance, with rising deceptive messianic claims.
2) verses 9-14:
This period is the "sorrows" that Jesus alluded to in verse 8. It is the period of "tribulation" (verse 9), "offenses" growing into "hatred", persecution, and "betrayal" where "lawlessness abounds and love grows cold" making many people ripe for "false prophets that will mislead". Notice the word "then" being used 4 times here ordering the sequence of events. Notice further that Jesus says that this period ends at his coming and that the end won't occur until the gospel has been preached in all the world and that those "who endure to the end will be saved" (i.e. delivered in the broad sense of the Greek word "sozo").
3) verses 15-28:
This period is the "great tribulation" and starts in verse 15 when Jesus says, "Therefore when [note the time-order indicators] you see the Abomination of Desolation, spoken by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place...". Jesus is referring to what Daniel said, "And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the middle of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make [it] desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate." (Dan. 9:27), and "shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place there the abomination that makes desolate." (Dan. 11:31), and "And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that makes desolate set up..." (Dan.12:11).
Jesus said that this period of "great tribulation" starts when the Abomination of Desolation appears...which Daniel says takes place in the "middle of the (70th) week". Jesus tells us further that this period goes to the end of the age when He returns. Incidentally, since Daniel got all this information that was quoted above from the angel, Gabriel, and other angels who obviously got it from God, and Jesus referred to it as being correct, the above chronology and time table is beyond controversy.
Now the middle of the "week" (Hebrew word meaning "seven") of years is 3 1/2 years from the end of the week. This 3 1/2 years is referred to in other portions of the books of Daniel and Revelation as "time, times and half a time", "42 months", or "1260 days". They are one and the same period of time...just different ways of saying it (calculate it out yourself). For anyone looking for proof of this, Rev. 12:6 and 12:14 equate the "1260 days" and "time, times, and half a time", respectively, and Rev. 11: 2 and 11:3 equate the "42 months" and the "1260 days", respectively.
This time will be so bad that Jesus warns them that "when you see the Abomination of Desolation standing in the holy place" of the temple (see also Thes. 2:4), "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains". He tells them not even to go back home and get some clothes, but to drop everything and head for the hills! Maybe that's where the expression came from, "Head for the hills!" He further warns them that those who are pregnant, those who are nursing babies, and indeed, those who are practicing Jews and are limited by the distance they can travel on the Sabbath will suffer additional hardships, not to forget the increased misery all would have to suffer if this event occurs in the winter time. Note that Jesus' statements, "...standing in the holy place...those in Judea...Sabbath..." indicate local events in Jerusalem, Judea and much of Israel . It is not that the rest of the world will be untouched by end time events, but that Jesus is relating them to the land of Israel and the Jews who live there because that is where the worst of it will center. The rest of the world will hear about this through the mass media, but for those there in Israel, it will be a worse time than for the rest of the world. That's why Jesus says at this point that it is time to head for the hills!
The reason that Jesus gives these extreme commands to flee in the light of the great suffering people will have to endure is because, "For then [note again the time-order indicators] there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved [i.e. delivered]; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened" (verses 21, 22). When Jesus says there never was or will be a time with more tribulation than this, you had better be sure He knows what He is talking about. That is why He is warning us. Then in verses 23-28, He goes on with another time-order indicator, "Then, if anyone..." further warns them of the great deception that they are ripe for due to their great vulnerability to a whole flurry of false christs and prophets saying that the Christ has already come in secret. He says ignore them because when He, the real Christ comes, it will be as obvious as lightning starting at one end of the sky and streaking and flashing across to the opposite side and that just as the birds are drawn to a carcass, so will the saved be gathered together to him!
Yes, it will be a terrible time..., but it will also be a glorious time for God will show much grace and protection upon His children and many Christians will lead many people to the Lord. "After these things I looked, and saw a great multitude that no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, crying out with a loud voice, saying, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb'. And all the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, 'Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might be onto our God forever and ever. Amen!' Then, one of the elders answered, saying to me, "Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?"...he said to me, 'These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them" (Rev. 7:9-15). Yes, this is not a time for Christians to fear, but to prepare for the greatest time and serve God with their whole heart, mind and soul.
If you believe that God did raise Jesus Christ from the dead, but have not yet given your life and will over to God through Jesus Christ, why not make Jesus your Lord, that is master, of your life and confess Him from the heart as your Lord and commit yourself to Him, so that He might save you to Himself and make a new creation out of you (see Romans 10:9-10 and 2 Cor. 5:17). Then you have no need to fear anything that is coming in the future, for you will have put your life into His hands!
4) verses 29-31:
This period is the "coming of the Son of Man", the Rapture: "Immediately after [note the time-order indicator again] the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then [another time-order indicator] 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. 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." (Mt. 24:29-31)
This period starts "immediately after the tribulation of those days" and concludes with the Resurrection of dead Christians, the changing of living Christians to immortality and catching them all away to be with the Lord on the Last Day. Speaking of the events in the last paragraph, Jesus says in Lk. 21:28, "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is very near!" Why? Because it's the rapture, and Jesus is coming to receive us to Himself! Why "look up and lift your heads"? Because He is coming from "up"..."coming in the clouds of glory"...and "we shall be caught up...in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air"! The events that happen at this point may be the most stupendous, the most incredible, the most fantastic events that any human being will have ever seen. They start with the heavenly signs that the prophets of old (Isa. 13:10, Ezek. 32:7, Joel) have prophesied over thousands of years ago. The Church was birthed on Peter's proclamation that the Pentecostal pouring out of God's Holy Spirit was the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy (see Acts 2:16-21 and Joel 2:28-32) and that God "would show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood, fire, and smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and notable Day of the Lord shall come." This is repeated in Rev. 6:12 as the Sixth Seal. What an awesome, fantastic event. No one will miss this when it happens. This will not be "done in a corner". You would have to be blind in one eye and not be able to see out of the other to miss this!
If this was not enough, "then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory". This is going to be a "two for one special" like none before. On the heels of the first dramatic eye opener will be the Lord's personal appearance and revelation and "Behold, he comes with clouds, and every eye will see him...and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him" (Rev. 1:7).
Perhaps "the sign of the Son of Man in heaven" will be a vision of "they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven..." since when he comes back in his physical resurrection body, he can be only in one place physically at a time and obviously that will be in the sky over Jerusalem, and the rest of the world will need a sign and comprehension that something did take place - namely, his return to planet earth! That may be why "all the tribes will mourn" and "every eye will see him".
Now if even this wasn't enough, there's more yet! "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Mat. 24:31). This will be 1 Thes. 4:15-17 coming alive! No more of just words on a page. The Incredible will have taken place..."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 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..." The archangel and angels will be involved in this at the Lord's command collecting the saints from the "four corners of heaven" " together to meet the Lord to be with him forever."
That trumpet is the Seventh Trumpet of Rev. 11:15-19 which signals the end of the Age and its history. Some Christians (who are pre-tribulationists) believe the "last trumpet" of 1 Cor. 15:52 is the first "last trumpet" and the Seventh Trumpet will come 7 years later and is the second "last trumpet". However, there are no two "last trumpets"; there is only one...just as there are not two raptures at the start and end of Daniel's Seventieth Week...just one...and it will be on the Last Day of the Age.
Thank God Jesus told us when the rapture would take place...not only four places and times in John's gospel but also in Matthew 24. We may not be able to say right now what the date is, but we do know it will be "after the tribulation of those days", and we can know the chronology and the number of days between certain events so that we can know when Jesus will come for us. The closer we get to it, the more obvious will be those things in prophecy which are hard to foresee right now. Thank God Jesus told us the whole scenario that we can understand how simple and straight forward it really will be. These are exciting times to be living in. We could be very close to his coming and to being caught up to be with him forever!
"Behold, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?'" (1 Cor.15:51-55)
"BE STILL MY SOUL"
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