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Rapture:  How is this different from the Second Coming?

Gary Googe Feb 12

The word Rapture is nowhere found in the Bible, but the event this term is used to represent certainly is.  It is called this because it refers to an occasion when God’s people on Earth are at that time suddenly transported to Heaven.  The word rapt means to be lifted up or carried out of oneself.  Jesus Christ comes in the air to miraculously receive these people unto Himself in the heavens.  The passage most descriptive of it is the first one we’ll note.  This is a passage thought to be by some a reference to what is typically spoken of as the Second Coming of Christ.  But we’ll note in this study why that cannot be correct because it is so strikingly different.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep [a term sometimes used for believers who have passed away], that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope [speaking of unbelievers].

14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again [a simple reference to the gospel message of our time], even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord [meaning Paul was given of the Lord Jesus Christ new revelation on this that the prophets of old knew nothing about], that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord [speaking of believers who are alive on Earth when this occurs] shall not prevent them which are asleep [believers of this present age who died earlier].

16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout [speaking of a command for this to occur], with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first [a reference to other members of the Body of Christ who died sometime earlier]:

17 Then we which are alive and remain shall 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.

18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words. [Emphasis added]

It is obvious that while these believers had been taught this truth earlier, some of them had died since that time.  The concern was that they had missed out on the Rapture.  Paul writes to assure these loved ones of theirs that the believers who had died would be a part of the Rapture, receiving their resurrection bodies just prior to those who will still be alive on Earth when this event occurs.  Again, this you’ve just read is probably the one passage of Scripture most referred to concerning this event, even though there are numerous others.  The Rapture is mentioned in eight of Paul’s thirteen epistles.

Galatians 1:4

1 Corinthians 4:5; 11:26; 15:51-52

2 Corinthians 3:14

Philippians 1:6; 3:11

Colossians 3:4

1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-18

2 Thessalonians 2:1-3

Titus 2:13

The reason this event is not mentioned in the Old Testament and “the four gospels” is that it is categorized as a mystery doctrine that was first revealed to the apostle Paul.  Up until then it had been a secret held in the mind of God.

1 Corinthians 15:51-54

51 Behold, I shew you a mystery [MUSTERION = a secret]; We shall not all sleep [speaking of physical death occurring], but we shall all be changed [transformed to have a resurrection body],

The fact that it was a secret tells us that no one knew about this coming event prior to its revelation to the apostle Paul and to us through his writings about it.

52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump [of this age of which we are a part]: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. [Emphasis added]

What a wonderful occasion this will be! It is something every believer should eagerly anticipate as a wonderful blessing of God.

Resurrection was something Old Testament people of faith knew about, but not this resurrection.  We’ll look at several passages that clearly show their knowledge of the blessing of resurrection.  The first is Hebrews 11:19 referring to the incident recorded in Genesis 22 where we see Abraham willing to provide his only son as an offering to God.  He knew that even if he did this, he’d one day see his son again but in a resurrection body.

Hebrews 11:19

19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. [Emphasis added]

Psalm 16:10-11

10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. [Emphasis added]

The Hebrew text for the word hell here in verse ten is SHEOL which can be rightly translated with the word hell.  But at the time this passage was written, SHEOL had three compartments—Torment, Tartarus, and ParadiseTorment is where all unbelievers went when they died and where they are still today [Luke 16:23-24]Tartarus is a compartment of HADES holding certain angelic beings who were involved in the infiltration of the human race in the days of Noah, bringing about beings that were spoken of as giants that were half human and half angel [Genesis 6:4].

2 Peter 2:4

For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [TARTARUS = a compartment of hell], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; [Emphasis added]

Paradise is where all the Old Testament saints went when they died, as in the case of the thief on the cross at Christ’s crucifixion [Luke 23:43].

Luke 23:43

43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise [PARADEISOS = paradise]. [Emphasis added]

This was a wonderful holding place as a compartment of hell where believers of Old Testament times were held.  In the story of the rich man and Lazarus [Luke 16:19-31], this is where Lazarus went when he died.

Psalm 49:14-15

14 Like sheep they are laid in the grave [SHEOL = unseen state]; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave [SHEOL = unseen state] from their dwelling.

15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah. [Emphasis added]

When a believer dies today, his body typically goes to a grave, but his soul and spirit go to be with our Lord in Heaven.  However, the day will come when all believers of this present age of grace will all receive their new resurrection body.  The occasion for that will be this time of the Rapture.  It is then that all of us who are spoken of as members of the Body of Christ will receive a resurrection body.  The 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 passage we noted speaks of this but so does this next passage we’ll note.

Philippians 3:20-21

20 For our conversation [POLITEUO = citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. [Emphasis added]

As I mentioned earlier, it is quite common for people to confuse the Rapture with the Second Coming of Christ.  Therefore, I’ll now give you a list that shows the contrast between these two events.

1-The Rapture is a mystery truth, but the Second Coming is not

The concept of it is given in Ephesians 3:1-5 while the Rapture is but one example of it [1 Corinthians 15:51-53].  We noted that earlier in this study.  Here in this Ephesians passage is the principle.

Ephesians 3:1-5

1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,

If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery [MUSTERION = a secret]; (as I wrote afore in few words,

Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; [Emphasis added]

2-The Rapture is a private event, but the Second Coming is not

The whole world will miraculously view the return or Second Coming of Christ to the Earth.  Scripture says every eye shall see Him.

Revelation 1:7

Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. [Emphasis added]

Matthew 24:23-27

23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.

24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

25 Behold, I have told you before.

26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.

27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. [Emphasis added]

3-The Rapture is imminent, but the Second Coming is not

Before the Second Coming can occur, many prophecies must be fulfilled.  Matthew 24, most of the book of Revelation, and other passages like Luke 21:25-28 speak of these things.  But here are two primary things that must occur first.

  • There’s a seven-year period of Tribulation that must occur first.
Matthew 24:21

21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. [Emphasis added]

Revelation 12:6 refers to the last half of this period.

And the woman  [speaking of Israel] fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days [3 ½ years]. [Emphasis added]

  • The world must be evangelized with The Gospel of The Kingdom.
Matthew 24:14

14 And this gospel of the kingdom [This is the same as the gospel of the circumcision, not OUR gospel] shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. [Emphasis added]

For more information on these two gospel messages, see my articles—

Gospels:  Did Peter and Paul preach the same gospel?

Second Coming:  Must the world first be evangelized?

4-The Rapture provides us now with motivation to prepare for it.

If you knew it was soon, what changes would you make to prepare for it? Wouldn’t it be a great idea to make those changes now? This next verse comes right after some verses discussing the Rapture.

1 Corinthians 15:58

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. [Emphasis added]

2 Corinthians 5:10

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. [Emphasis added]

5-At the Rapture Christ meets believers in the air, but at the Second Coming He comes to the Earth.

As we noted in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, we will meet Christ in the air, but He returns to the same place on Earth from which He departed in His ascension.

Acts 1:11

11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. [Emphasis added]

Zechariah 14:4

And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. [Emphasis added]

 6-At the Rapture only believers will be removed from the Earth.

We noted this in I Thessalonians 4:16-17, but at the Second Coming it will be unbelievers who are removed from the Earth.  Some people confuse this next passage with the Rapture.

Matthew 24:40-42

40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. [Emphasis added]

Other passages that speak of this event include Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 [the parable of the wheat and the tares] and Matthew 24:45-51 and 25:31-46.

7-Unlike at the Second Coming, there will be no changes made on the Earth.

When Christ comes to bring judgment upon the Earth there will then be radical changes made.

Isaiah 35—Here are but a few verses, but the whole chapter addresses this.

1 The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.

It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.

Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.

Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.

Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. [Emphasis added]

Again, these are but the first few verses of a whole chapter that is devoted to describing the many changes that will occur on the Earth when Jesus Christ returns to establish His earthly kingdom which is not to be confused with Heaven.  Other similar passages include Isaiah 65:19-21, Ezekiel 36:22-38, and even one in Paul’s writings—Romans 8:18-23.

8-Unlike at the Second Coming, the world is not judged.

Jude 14-15

14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,

15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. [Emphasis added]

9-Unlike at the Second Coming, Israel’s covenants remain unfulfilled.

At the Second Coming they are all completely fulfilled.  God always keeps His Word, even though things may at times look otherwise.

Acts 15:16

16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David [referring to the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant], which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: [Emphasis added]

Romans 11:26-27

26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. [Emphasis added]

Other passages on this would include Matthew 6:10 and Revelation 5:10.

10-Unlike at the Second Coming, Satan is not judged and is still free.

At the Second Coming Satan is judged and cast off the Earth.  He is then said to be bound for a thousand years.

Revelation 20:2

And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, [Emphasis added]

As you can surely see, there are many differences between the Rapture and the Second Coming.  They are two completely different and separate events.  The responsive, obedient believer should look forward to the Rapture for it will be immediately followed by the Judgment Seat of Christ where all the rewards will be distributed.  As we see in the apostle Paul’s last writing, we should all be excited about it.

2 Timothy 4:8

Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. [Emphasis added]

This closing verse should never be seen as a threat, but as a heads-up to get to work in one’s service to our Lord.  All our works are there going to be evaluated and rewarded.

2 Corinthians 5:10

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. [Emphasis added]

For many years I’ve called this event The Big Rally in Heaven.  For many years in our business, we attended national rallies where people were rewarded for their excellence in their productivity.  This will be like that, BUT FAR GREATER in every way.  I hope to not only see you there but awarded with rewards you’ll get to enjoy forever.

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