The rapture and the second coming of Christ – What's the difference?
Those who hold to the view of a rapture that is separate from the second coming of Christ emphasize the many apparent differences listed between these two events. Those who believe both events refer to one return of Christ attempt to reconcile their differences to prove Jesus will only return one time at the end of the tribulation period. A look at the key differences helps to clarify these concerns.
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At the rapture, believers will meet Christ in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). At the second coming, believers return with the Lord to the earth (Revelation 19:14).
A second difference is that the rapture is an any-moment event (1 Thessalonians 5:2). The second coming will clearly take place at the end of a seven year tribulation (Revelation 19).
A third difference is that believers will be removed from the earth in the rapture before it is judged (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 5:9). At the second coming, unbelievers will experience judgment (Matthew 24:40-41).
A fourth difference is that the rapture will be instant and secret (1 Corinthians 15:50-55). The second coming will be visible to all (Matthew 24:29-31).
A fifth difference is that the rapture can take place at any moment (1 Corinthians 15:50-55). The second coming will take place after many other clear end-time events (Revelation 6—19).
These differences are of great importance. If the rapture can take place at any moment, then believers are urged to live holy lives with a sense of urgency to share Christ with other people.
In addition, an any-moment rapture shows that God will rescue His people prior to His judgments upon the earth. This perspective resembles the pattern of God rescuing Noah and his family in the ark prior to His judgment of the earth by a flood.
Another argument to support a pretribulation rapture is that the tribulation period described in Revelation 6—19 does not once mention the church. The most likely explanation for this omission is that believers have already been rescued from this time of judgment through the rapture.
Both events are important, yet distinct events. When Christ returns at the rapture, He will come in the air to take His people to be with Him. When He comes at the second coming, He will return in judgment and defeat the Antichrist and those with him.
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Truth about the End Times