The Christ in Prophecy Journal

Differences Between the Rapture and Second Coming


As Web Minister for Lamb & Lion Ministries, I get the blessing each day of responding to an in-boxful of great questions related to Bible prophecy. Many of these questions come from people wanting to know more about the return of Jesus Christ.

Concerning Jesus’ prophesied return, it comes as a surprise to some to find out that the Rapture is an event that is going to occur separate and apart from the Second Coming. Here’s how I explain it:

When you look at the Bible verses on the Rapture — John 14:1-14, 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 — and then you look at other verses that talk about the Second Coming — Zechariah 14:1-12, Jesus’ account in Matthew 24:29-31 and in Mark 13:24-27, Luke 21:25-27, and Revelation 19 — when compared they tell a different story. We go into reading these verses as if they are supposed to be all about the Second Coming, but discover there is a vast difference between the two accounts.

For instance, if you look at the verses particularly about the Rapture, they tell that when Jesus comes He comes in the air. Believers are brought from the ground up into the air to be with Christ. But, in Second Coming verses, the order occurs the other way around — Jesus is coming down and He actually lands on Earth. So, for the Rapture Jesus is up in the air, but for the Second Coming Jesus comes to the ground.

Also, take the Mount of Olives. In the Rapture verses believers in Christ are brought up into the air and Jesus is waiting for them. But, in the Second Coming verses Jesus comes down to Earth and when He lands (especially in Zechariah 14 explains this) the Mount of Olives splits forming a new valley on the East side of Jerusalem. For such a remarkable event, there is oddly no mention of that in the Rapture verses.

It is like the Rapture and the Second Coming are two different stories — two different events — and so I think that is indeed the case.

Again, let’s look at the location of believers in Christ during these events. The believers are brought up to Heaven in the Rapture verses, but when Jesus comes back to Earth there are believers on the Earth. So, if Jesus brought all the believers up at the Rapture, how could there be believers still on the Earth at the Second Coming? A significant time lapse would have had to occur between the Rapture and Second Coming for so many people to come to believe in Jesus as Savior. So, again, these have to be two separate and distinct events.

When you read like 1 Thessalonians 4 and you compare it to Revelation 19 you find they don’t have anything in common except that they both focus upon Jesus Christ. In one account Jesus appears in the heavens, but in the other account He comes down to Earth. In one He appears for His believers and the other He returns with His believers.

Even the nature of Christ’s return is different. In the Rapture account He is appearing as a Deliverer and as a Bridegroom for His Bride, but in the Second Coming account He is coming back to Earth for the purpose of pouring out the wrath of God upon those who have rejected the grace, mercy and love of God, and He comes with His believers and He comes to be a King. They have to be two different events because the stories just don’t line up.

What these differences mean is that the Second Coming of Jesus is going to occur in two stages — first the Rapture for the Church and second the later return to the Earth of Jesus with His Church to reign.

Having the Second Coming in two separate stages solves a problem with the differences in accounts, in that the Bible tells us that we cannot know anything about the timing of the Lord’s return (Matt. 24:36-24). And, yet, if we go over to the book of Revelation we’ll see it says that once the Antichrist signs a peace covenant the time will be exactly seven years until Jesus returns (Dan. 9; Rev. 11). These scriptures give us the exact amount of time that God is going to pour out His wrath on this Earth — 84 months. So, when Jesus in Matthew 24 speaks about not knowing when Christ’s coming will happen, it has to be referring to the Rapture. Even Jesus says He doesn’t know when He is supposed to come back to the Earth. If the Antichrist signed a peace treaty and then 3 1/2 years later desecrated the newly rebuilt Temple, Jesus could say, “Okay, I’ve got this many days before I am going to show up.”

Because of these differences in the accounts, the Rapture and the Second Coming must be separate events within Jesus’ prophesied return.

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ABOUT AUTHOR View all posts Author Website

Dr. Nathan E. Jones

As the Internet Evangelist at Lamb & Lion Ministries, Nathan reaches out to the over 4.5 billion people accessible over the Internet with the Good News of Jesus Christ. He also co-hosts the ministry's television program Christ in Prophecy and podcast The Truth Will Set You Free.

12 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • 2 things: 1st there are many who say matt 24 has NOTHING to do with the rapture only the 2nd coming. they say "1 will be takent (into judgement) the other left (to enter the kingdom)" and they say where noone knows the day or the hr it means he could come anytine during the 75 days in dan 12. 2nd: in your (whoever reads this)opinion what is the biggest convincer of a pre-trib rapture? what one or two things convinces you the most? i`m gonna talk to a friend in a few days but will only have like 10 minutes to talk to him about this.

  • by the way, where i stand is i DO believe jesus made reference to the rapture in matt 24. the church was 1st introduced in matt 16 when peter confessed jesus was the son of God so tho the church did not yet start it was clearly introduced. getting back to the differences when i was as young as 8yrs old i realized the difference between"meet the Lord in the air" and being seprated like sheep and goats. to say there`s no rapture creates all kinds of contradictions. an 8yr old child can understand that, so how come alot of scholars cant?

  • Biggest support (in my mind): The 1 Thess. passage, the fact that we are the bride of Christ and He is going to prepare our house for us per the Jewish wedding ceremony, and what I know about the grace and heart of my Heavenly Father.

    To answer your second question, I think some believers only want Jesus to come back once–at the end of the age. They feel that we need to be purified and cleansed and need to go through "the fire of tribulation" to get there. They do not understand that the sacrifice of Jesus took away ALL our sins and there is no need to purify us anymore.

    Furthermore, I think many people have a tendency to put on their "figurative" glasses when interpreting end time prophecies, and they read much more into it that what is actually there.

    Just my 2 cents worth (if it even adds up to that).

  • thunder
    it seems to me it dont take faith to believe in a rapture, it only takes a little faith and laura, your take seems right on. i once showed a post tribber certain passages and he shrugged it off saying "noone really knows what they mean, its not to be taken literally"

  • i meant to say it only takes a little brains to believe in a rapture. i`m trying to condense the proof of the rapture as much as possible but there are sooooo many reasons to believe it. i suppose the death blows are who populates the millineum and "meet the Lord in the air" i could use matt 24 but too many people (inaccurately) say it has nothing to do with the rapture as to where i think it does reference it.

  • hartdawg,
    When people say that to you…."no one really knows what they mean, it's not to be taken literally"…I would have to come back with this…."well if you say that no one knows, how can you then tell me that it's not to be taken literally…..if you or no one knows". See what I mean?? 🙂

  • Hartdawg,

    My question is: If those particular scriptures "aren't to be taken literally," then how can you take any scripture literally? In other words, what are their "rules" for interpreting scripture? If they can see the inconsistencies in their method, then perhaps they will see the flaw in it.

    Yes, the Bible uses figurative language, but it uses it in obvious ways (parables and symbols, for example). And we should interpret those things figuratively, but they fall within specific guidelines that are consistent throughout the Bible.

  • laura
    i discovered (as you may have) that reasoning doesnt work with some people. the question you ask makes PERFECT SENSE but people prefer the traditions of men. even satan in the garden used that trick. the Bible is literal unless otherwise stated.

  • hartdawg,

    Yes, I have had that same problem, on more than a few occasions. And my comeback……has worked every single time. 😉

  • I don’t disagree with you folk; but may I include a few more thoughts?

    The literal context of Matt.24 is primarily of Israel’s near, future and far future suffering, including those events up to the second coming. Although the Rapture may be viewed through ‘type’.

    The ‘GOSPEL of the kingdom’ is not the mystery ‘Gospel of Salvation’ through the death and resurrection of Jesus; as that is still a future event. Rather this ‘gospel’ refers to the earthly rule of Messiah, now deferred until after the 2nd Coming. The ‘mystery of the kingdom of God’ is the entirety of God’s eternal rule.

    Matt.16:18 Jesus said “I WILL build my Church” (future tense). The Church is not an accidental by product of Israel rejecting the Messiah; it was planned from the beginning but the Church was also a 'mystery' until its birth by the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. e.g. Eph.5:32. Eph.6:19

    John's Gospel infers the Rapture, but it too was a 'mystery' until Paul spoke of it directly in 1Cor.15:51. The Gospel of Christ, the Church and the Rapture were 'veiled' future events. It is as though 'due process of law ' concerning God's dealing with Israel had to be ‘seen to be done’ before the plan of redemption through Christ could be disclosed.

    There are several ‘mystērion’s’’ in the Bible; similar to a ‘secret’ in that it is kept concealed until it is made known, but only by divine revelation.

    Matt.24:22 The days have already been shortened by God; apparently it is a past tense statement; God has already decided not to allow the full quota of His declared discipline, lest no one survives.

    Mark 13:20 is clearer. “And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days”.

    I do not see it as a future shortening of the day by God, or some cosmic upheaval.

    Levitcus 26 gives the cycles of discipline for Israel)

    Thanks for listening


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