The return of Jesus is a certainty. However, many believers have grown cold toward “End Times” teaching because there has been so much confusing information out there including the ridiculous notion that people can set dates when scripture says we can’t. The Bible, however, gives a lot of space to this topic and so it is clear that God considers it important and if He does, so should we. As the time of His return gets closer, our understanding of the scriptures is growing. This is a longer post to read but it is a complex and important area, so take your time to understand.
2 Peter 3:4 (NIV)
4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
While there are libraries of books and teaching on this topic, the following is a small outline to give some highlights of the beliefs which most Evangelical/Pentecostal teachers would generally agree on:
Key events of His return
What are some of the key events surrounding the return (second coming) of Jesus:
- The word “rapture” is a translated word based on the Greek word “harpazo” from 1 Thessalonians 4:17 which means to be “caught up” or “carried away”.
- This is when Jesus will call believers up into heaven and is sometimes confused with His return. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
- It is unknown how the world will explain this bizarre event.
- It will happen either before the coming seven-year period spoken of in Daniel 9 and Revelation or certainly before the Great Tribulation which is the second half of the seven-year period.
- It is when believers will stand before the Judgement seat of Christ and be rewarded or not for what they have done while on earth. 2 Corinthians 5:10, Revelation 19:7-8
A seven-year period in two halves
- The period of 7 years in two halves: Tribulation to Great Tribulation.
- Daniel 9 describes this 7 year period in two lots of 3.5 “weeks of years”, Revelation describes each half as 1260 days (based on 360 day year) or 42 months. The second half is considered to be the “Great Tribulation”. Daniel 9:24-27, Revelation 11:2-3, Revelation 12:6 and others.
- It will be a time of great deception (Matthew 24:4) which is why it is so important we base our faith on The Word of truth – the Bible.
- At some point, there is a failed “Gog/Magog” attack on Israel which appears to have a nuclear component. (Ezekiel 37-38) The nations identified in this passage include nations like Iran, Turkey and Russia which work together today in the Middle East around Israel. This could happen before the 7 year period or during it but it is not the same as the war of Armageddon. (Revelation 16:6)
- The rise of the AntiChrist as a world leader will happen around the beginning of the 7 year period. He will arrive to bring peace (Revelation 6 – Riding a white horse) but will be a man of war.
- The Jewish nation will make a covenant (contract) with the AntiChrist. (Daniel 9:27) This does not mean they will recognise him as the Messiah. This covenant is thought to trigger the start of the 7 year tribulation period.
- The Jewish temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem. Allowing this to happen is believed to be a critical part of Israel’s covenant with the Antichrist.
- The “abomination of desolations” will occur where the AntiChrist sets himself up as God in the rebuilt temple. Matthew 24:15-25
- The focus on Israel
- The ministry of the “Two witnesses” to Israel will commence. They will have a ministry like that of Moses and Elijah representing the Law and The Prophets but with the purpose of reaching the Jewish nation with the Gospel. Revelation 11:1-14 It is likely that these two witnesses will appear in the first half of this 7 year period. They will be killed by the Antichrist. (Some people believe they will actually be Moses and Elijah)
- Believers of Jewish descent (144,000) will reach out to a world in turmoil with the gospel. (Revelation 7:1-8) This is likely in the first half but may overlap the two halves. Many will believe but many will die at the hand of the Antichrist.
- Time of Jacob’ trouble: While the second half of the 7 years is called the Great Tribulation, it is also called the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7) because there will be a great focus on Israel. It will be a time of a significant increase in worldwide persecution and martyrdom of Jews as well as anyone who commits their life to Jesus.
- Many Jews will come to faith. Zechariah 12:10-14
- It will eventually be so hard to preach the gospel in the second half that God will send an angel to do this. Revelation 14:6-7
- The battle of Armageddon will happen toward the end of this 7 year period. Revelation 16:16. It will be the trigger for a remnant of the Jewish nation to escape to Bozrah (Petra) in southern Jordan (Micah 2:12-13) and to then call on Jesus (Yeshua) at which point He will return and protect His people. Isaiah 63:1
- The period of 7 years in two halves: Tribulation to Great Tribulation.
The return of Jesus
- Jesus will only return when Isreal recognises Him as their Messiah and say “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.” Matthew 23:39
- He will return in righteous anger. Isaiah 63:1-6
- He will return to where he left – the Mt of Olives in Israel, presumably via Bozrah (Petra). Zechariah 14:4
- He will kill the Antichrist with His breath. 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8
The Millenial reign of Christ on earth
- Jesus (Yeshua) will rule from Jerusalem and it will be a time of great peace. Jeremiah 3:17, Isaiah 11:6-8
- The Sheep and Goat Judgement will determine who enters into the Millenial period. Matthew 25:31-46
- It is helpful to be mindful that the world will be populated by the remaining people alive on earth after the tribulation period. These will be believers.
- During the Millenial period – each person will still need to confess faith in Christ and will have a period of 100 years to do so. Isaiah 65:20
- Nations will need to send representatives to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in Israel each year. Zechariah 14:16-19
White Throne Judgement
- At the end of the Millennial reign of Christ, the final judgment will occur. This is where non-believers are judged. Revelation 20:11-15
Purpose of the tribulation
One key purpose of the tribulation is for the Nation of Israel to return to God in faith. They have returned physically to the land, but have yet to return spiritually as a nation to faith in God. (Zechariah 12:10-14). They will at this time recognise Jesus has always been their long-awaited Messiah. It is only when Israel as a nation calls Jesus to help them in the midst of distress that He will return. (Matthew 23:39) This is why Satan is so eager to destroy the Jews or at least drive them out of the Land of Israel “into the sea” because they will trigger the return.
Read also Ezekiel 37 (The prophecy of the Dry Bones)
When will He return
Scripture indicates the rapture event will happen suddenly and catch people unaware and so we always need to be prepared for this. Indeed, if you died tomorrow, that is the “rapture” event for you as a believer.
The primary reason for believing that the Lord will return soon is the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and re-establishment of the nation in 1948. If you follow the history of the battles Israel fought against the many surrounding nations and won, the only explanation of their victory is the hand of God.
Scripture indicates His return will happen sometime after this pre-cursor event of the establishment of the nation of Israel. However, if someone sets a date, all you can do is walk away.
36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.
What will the next trigger point be? Romans 11:25 gives us a clue.
25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, (NIV)
It seems like Jesus is counting people into His church and when the right number is reached, then it will be time to close the church age. How can we hurry His return? – by reaching out and preaching the Gospel.
Answer the most important question in your life: Are you ready? Matthew 25:1-13