The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is actually a twofold event. Scripture indicates that He will return for His saints before the outpouring of God’s wrath and later with His saints to set up His Millennial Reign.
The Second Coming of Christ begins at the event usually called The Rapture of the Church or The Blessed Hope, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). This takes place in the middle of Daniel’s 70th Week, “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for Himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate” (Daniel 9:24-27).
The apostle Paul reveals that “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 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” (1 Corinthians 15:52-54). The first part of the Second Coming of the Lord will be sudden, quicker than the human eye can see Him. Jesus told us that He is coming to take His people into the place that He has prepared for them, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3). In a split second of time every living saint will be caught up together with those who have dies into the very presence of Christ in the air, “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” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). If Christ’s Second Coming were a single event then there would be no need to catch the church up into the air as described by Paul.
The Greek word ‘harpazo’ means ‘carry off’ or ‘snatch up’. Paul calls such an event “Our gathering together unto Him” (1 Thessalonians 2:1). It has to be noted that we are gathered unto Him at His Coming. Therefore by comparing Scripture with Scripture we understand that at the first phase of the Second Coming Jesus gathers together His Church. Paul described this event in detail in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, “Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality”, and in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words”.
The second phase of Christ’s return will take place at the close of the final 3½ year period (Wrath of God). “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. 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. 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. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken” (Matthew 24:21-29).
At this time He will be seen coming with His saints by the entire world. Jesus makes it clear that He will be seen by all, “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 … And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory … 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 … Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 24:27,30; Revelation 1:7; Matthew 26:64). It is at this time that Israel (indeed the entire world) will see clearly who the Lord Jesus Christ really is, “and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced” (Zechariah 12:10).
We notice in Matthew 25:31 that He brings angels with Him on this occasion, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory”, which of course was not mentioned regarding the Rapture. He also brings His Church with Him, “To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:13). This indicates that they must have been with Him for them to come with Him. There is no other serious alternative but to accept a two phased coming of Christ.
At this time He will destroy the Antichrist and the false prophet, “And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8) as He ushers in His Millennial Reign. The destruction of Antichrist is not mentioned in relation to the Rapture.
Jesus will return to the air during the first phase but will descend upon Mount Olivet at the second. This will fulfil the angels words to the disciples in Acts 1:9-11, “And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 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. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet”. The Rapture does not occur over Mount Olivet, but the actual bodily return of Christ to earth does. The first phase has Jesus coming in the air (no precise location given), but the second phase has Him coming to a place located near Jerusalem – the Mount of Olives.
It is then He answers His disciples query, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6), as He restores Israel as the centre of the government of God, “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: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (Romans 11:26-27), which will be in effect the re-establishment of the Davidic Kingdom, “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old” (Amos 9:11-12), “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:31-33).
Therefore there has to be a two phases, separated by a period of either 3½ years or 7 years (depending on which version of the premillennial Raptures is accepted), otherwise it is impossible to rightly divide God’s Word. We would have Scripture contradicting itself if we try to force all of these details (and others surrounding them) into a single event Second Advent.