The rapture and the second coming
The next two major events in prophecy are the rapture and the second coming of Christ. These are not the same event. This is evident by the different details of each event. Although the English word rapture is not in the KJV, the event is. In 1Thessalonians 4:17 the Greek word harpazo is translated caught up. That is also the definition of the word rapture. This event is also described in 1Corinthians 15. This whole chapter is about the essentiality of the resurrection of Christ and also about the saved will also be resurrected. Verses 15:23-28 describe the second coming when death and the Lord’s enemies will be vanquished. Then the purpose of the “sonship” of the Lord will be completed and that role that He took upon Himself will no longer be needed. This will not happen at the rapture because people will continue to die and the enemies of God will still be functioning as described in other prophecies such as Daniel and Revelation. Verses 35-49 describe how the resurrection will take place by correlating it with several things in nature such as grain planted in the ground rising with a different body and different kinds of bodies of earthly and heavenly things. The resurrection of the saved is “sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body”. Then verses 50-54 describe the rapture. Sleep here refers to the sleep of death (Deut 31:36, 2Sam 7:12, 1Ki 1:21, Job 7:21, Ps 13:3, Dan 12:2, Jn 11:11-13, Acts 13:36, 1Cor 11:30, 1Thes 4:14, 1Thes 5:10). Philippians 3:20-21 and 1John 3:2-3 also speak of the change that is coming to our bodies in the rapture.
The rapture will happen in a moment. The Greek word in verse 52 is atomos which is where we get the word atom. It means that which is so small it cannot be divided. So, here it means the smallest measurement of time. It will happen with the speed of the smallest movement of the eye - a “twinkling”. There will be no chance to see it coming or to prepare. The preparation will have to already have been made. There will be a sound of a trumpet, which some conflate with the last of the seven trumpets described in Revelation 8-11. Revelation 11:15-19 describe the seventh trumpet being sounded and there is no description of a rapture or resurrection. The seven trumpets are clearly a series of judgments of those on the earth who are not saved. These are preceded by seven seals (Rev 5-7). When the seventh seal is opened, the seven trumpets begin to sound. These are followed by seven vials of the wrath of God (Rev 15-16). The descriptions of these events show them to be consecutive. The descriptions of the seventh seal, seventh trumpet, and seventh vial are different. Matthew 24:31 also mentions a trumpet.
There is another description of the rapture in 1Thessalonians 4:13-17. It harmonizes with 1Corinthians 15. Those that are alive when this great moment arrives will not “prevent” them which have died. This means they will not precede them. Rather, “them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him”. The dead in Christ shall rise first. There will be three sounds: the Lord will descend from heaven with a shout, there will be the voice of the archangel (singular), and the trumpet of God. The archangel here is probably Michael. The only other place the word archangel appears is Jude 9 which calls Michael the (singular) archangel. He is also called “one of the chief princes (Dan 10:13)”, “your (Daniel’s) prince (Dan 10:20)”, and “the great prince (Dan 12:1)”. Also, Michael and his angels fought with Satan and his angels (Rev 12:7). After the dead in Christ rise first, the living will be “caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord”. Notice the raptured will meet the Lord in the air, not on the ground. When the Lord Jesus returns, His feet will stand upon the mount of Olives (Zech 14:4, Acts 1:9-12). Also, notice that it does not say, “and so shall we ever be in heaven”, but “so shall we ever be with the Lord”. The rapture is the Lord returning FOR His church. The second coming is the Lord returning WITH His previously raptured church to set up His kingdom here (Dan 2:35 & 44, Dan 7:13-14 & 21-22 & 27, Zech 14:5, 1Pet 2:9, Jude 14-15, Rev 1:6, Rev 2:26, Rev 5:10, Rev 19:11-21, Rev 20:4). Animals will no longer be dangerous and Israel will be restored (Is 11:6-12). The temple, the offerings, and the inheritance of the land of the tribes of Israel will be restored (Eze 40-48).
The second coming of Christ is described in Zechariah 14:
1. all nations to battle against Jerusalem (Rev 16:12-26, Rev 19:11-21 - Armageddon)
2. the Lord shall go forth and fight against those nations
3. his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives (Acts 1:9-12)
4. the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee (Dan 7:22, Jude 14) (with,
5. not day, nor night (Rev 21:23-25)
6. living waters shall go out from Jerusalem (Eze 47:1-12, Rev 22:1-2)
The second coming is also described in 2Thessalonians 2:1-12. It indicates the antichrist must be revealed before the second coming:
1. vs 7 - he who now letteth (restrains) will let, until he be taken (become, be made) out
of the way (the midst, among, Thayer says of the connotation in this verse - to
2. vs 8 - then shall that Wicked be revealed
3. vs 9 - whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with
the brightness of his coming
4. 3 events in order
a. rapture first
b. then antichrist (Mt 24:14-21 - tribulation, Dan 9:26-27 - 70th week, Rev 6-19)
c. then second coming
There will be several phases to the resurrection. 1Corinthians 15:22-23 says that in Christ shall all be made alive, but every man in his own order. The first phase is the rapture of the church which will signal the end of this covenant period and the start of the tribulation period. God will generally turn from the Gentiles back to the Jews (Lk 21:24, Rom 9-11). Note that in Revelation 6-19, which is considered a detailed description of the seven-year tribulation period, when Gentile saved people are mentioned, they are described as being in heaven (Rev 7:9-17), while saved people on earth are described as Jews (Rev 7:1-8, Rev 14:1-5, Rev 15:2-4). At the end of the tribulation period, those who were saved during the tribulation but either died or were killed will be resurrected (Rev 20:4-6). That will be the last phase of the first resurrection. “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection (Rev 20:6).” The word part in this verse is the Greek word meros, which means one of the constituent parts of a whole. The next resurrection will be the second resurrection (Rev 20:11-15). Jesus described the two resurrections as the resurrection of life and the resurrection of damnation (Jn 5:25-29). Daniel also prophesied of this (Dan 12:1-3). So, everyone will be resurrected at some point. Those who have part in the first resurrection will be saved. Those who are not resurrected until the second resurrection will be resurrected after the 1,000-year kingdom solely for the purpose of their final judgment. All those who appear before the great white throne will be cast into the lake of fire. This is also called the second death (Rev 2:11, Rev 20:6 & 14, Rev 21:8). So, hell is like a jail where those arrested and charged are held pending trial and final sentencing. The great white throne is the trial. The lake of fire is the place they will serve their final sentence for eternity. Therefore, the timeline going forward is the rapture, the seven-year tribulation period, the second coming, the 1,000 year or millennial kingdom, and the great white throne judgment. After that comes the restoration of the state lost in the garden of Eden and eternity (Rev 21-22).