When reading certain books of the Bible, specifically the apocalyptic books, it can be confusing to differentiate if the author is mentioning the Second Coming of Christ or the Rapture. However, to fully understand the text one must realize which event the author is talking about.
1 Thessalonians 4:17 describes the event in which all of the living and dead Christian believers will rise to join Christ for eternity. Over time this was named “The Rapture”even though it is not named that anywhere in Scripture, which means a state or experience of being carried away. This word comes from the Latin word rapio, which means to seize or snatch in relation to an ecstasy of spirit or the actual removal from one place to another. Ryrie’s Basic Theology states it basically means to be carried away in spirit or in body. 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 says this Rapture will happen in the “twinkling of an eye,” unlike the Second Coming of Christ.
The Second Coming is described in Revelation 19:11-16. This is when Christ
returns to Earth for a second time for judgement. Although Christian denominations disagree about specific details, all believe that Jesus will be coming back to the Earth in the future to judge the living and the dead – which comes from the Nicene Creed.
Now how can we keep these two closely related events straight?
1. Location & who will be with Christ
During the Rapture believers- dead and alive- will meet Christ in the air. During The Second Coming, however, Christ will return the Earth with angels and thousands of His holy people. Jude 14-15 He and His army will fight the anti-Christ in the Valley of Armageddon. Rev. 16:16, 17:15, 19:11-19
The rapture is viewed as deliverance of believers to be with Christ forever. The Second Coming will be for judgement. Many will suffer His wrath during this time, but not the believers that were involved in the Rapture.
3. Who will be taken?
Two sets of people are the focus of each event. The Rapture will focus on Christians waiting the Lord’s return to Earth. The one’s not taken in the Rapture are the unrepentant ones. Matthew 24:37-39 paints a picture of judgement when it mentions the days of Noah. In Noah’s days people were further away from God than they had ever been, so He has to essentially start over and flooded the land.
4. Who will see it?
The Rapture, as mentioned in 1 Corinthians, will be secret and instant – only the effects will be noticed. Matthew and Revelation make it clear that all will see Him during the Second Coming.
It is clear from Scripture that nobody knows when either event will happen. However, the Second Coming will follow certain events. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8 states the man of lawlessness must be revealed and destroyed by Christ’s coming. Matthew and Revelation also supply conditions for the Second Coming to happen. The time between the two is called the Tribulation period.
The differences in these events are very important, as they are sometimes confused as being one big event. Although there is much emphasis on the end times in Scripture, there is a great deal of detail missing that would help clear this up for the reader. The timeline on the Rapture and the Second Coming is unknown, which makes it a largely debated topic.
The video below is a bit repetitive but the visuals helped me understand this.