Summary: Some men have read into the second coming texts, distinctions that show the difference between the rapture and what they call the "revelation." The Bible knows no such distinctions.
6. SUPPOSED DISTINCTIONS
It is disappointing to read the works of men that are normally trustworthy in their treatment of Scripture, when it comes to their promotion of a pre-tribulation rapture. Consider our brother Dave Hunt, no lightweight in the Word. Over and over his publications define New Testament Christianity and its enemies. But on the subject at hand he falls woefully short of exemplifying his “Berean” philosophy. Brother Hunt sees distinctions between the rapture and the second coming, and describes them in his October 2003 Berean Call. I would like to comment on these distinctions, with the reminder that I mean absolutely no disrespect to this great man of the Word.
Distinction 1: At the rapture, says Dave Hunt, Christ does not return to earth, but at the second coming He does. As proof, he offers the words of Jesus in John 14:3: “I will...receive you unto myself that where I am you may be also.” Further, he quotes Paul (I Thessalonians 4:17): “...caught up to meet the Lord in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Certainly Brother Hunt does not suggest that Jesus remains suspended “in the air”, that is, the atmosphere above our earth constantly for those seven years. We all assume that at this point, when the saints are gathered, Jesus either goes back “up” to Heaven, or completes His journey by coming to earth. Does it seem logical that Jesus would have to descend part way to us to collect us? Why not give the Word from the Throne Room itself? But setting logic aside, we have only statements of fact. And both of the quoted statements tell us that when we leave here we go to be with Jesus, and remain with Him forever. No other point, especially geographical, can be extracted. Dave’s argument is from silence. Since the text does not state here which way Jesus goes, Dave assumes that He goes up, to fit the theory.
True Bereans, as the originals in Acts 17, search the Scriptures daily “to find out whether these things [be] so.” My brother Berean needs to compare Scripture with Scripture here: Look at Matthew 24:30 and 31. Compare it to the passage Dave has used in the Thessalonian letter. In both passages are clouds, angels , a trumpet, and a gathering. What distinction can be drawn? Consider :
I Thessalonians 4:16-17: “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. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
(By the way, if we add in more of Paul’s supposed “rapture” teaching from I Corinthians 15:52, we find that that “trumpet” is the last trumpet. That ties it in with Revelation 11:15, where the seventh and final trumpet is sounded at a time that is clearly the end of all things. There cannot be another trumpet after this. Yet Matthew 24, supposedly written about a period seven years in the future, mentions another trumpet! Something, that is, the number of trumpets, doesn’t add up.)
Matthew 24:29-31: “...after the tribulation...the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven ...they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven . And He will send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet and they will gather together his elect from one end of heaven to the other.”
Paul knew the teachings about the second coming of Christ. He knew that they involved angels, trumpet, clouds, and a gathering. Is it likely that, in this confused Thessalonian church, he would introduce the same terminology used for the second coming of Christ without spelling out his meaning, that this “coming” is separate from the other? (In fact he did spell it out in II Thessalonians! But not to the liking of the pre-trib scholar.)
In Acts 1:9-11, normally considered a “second coming” promise, Jesus ascends into heaven, and a cloud receives Him out of their sight. Angels promise that when Jesus descends it will be in the same manner, as John repeats: “Lo he comes with the clouds, and every eye shall see Him.” (Revelation 1:7) It fits the pattern. Jesus comes down, and in the context of Acts, He sets up His kingdom. And like a magnet drawing nails, His own are drawn to Him at that time.
In Revelation 19:11-15, another picture of the second coming is portrayed. Here is conquering King Jesus, and behind him the armies of heaven, the saints and angels of God. Now how do we learn horseback riding in the sky so quickly? How do we appear as a victorious army so quickly, without a seven-year preparation in Heaven? No instructions, no advance notice?