The Second Coming of Christ

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Rapture (Secret Coming)

Some people deceive themselves thinking they can get ready at the last moment and be found at His coming. This is a great deception of the devil. They forget that this 'rapture' will not only be 'secret' and 'select', but also 'sudden'. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said, "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only" (Matt.24:36). He has indicated the signs and happenings which precede His coming, so that we may be found ready when He comes. Some of the signs are the rising up of false Christs, wars and rumours of wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, persecution of Christians, increase of iniquity etc. (Matt.24:5-7,9,12).

In the midst of all these, only those who 'follow peace with all men and holiness', can see Him (Heb.13:14). We will not have time at all to get twinkling of an eye', 'in a moment', the perfected Church would be transformed and caught up to meet the Lord in the air. The whole event will be over like a flash of lightning. Therefore, we should have lived a life worthy of this 'sudden rapture' having overcome all things, and await this glorious moment. Let us watch carefully, lest this day come upon us unawares. To quote again, 'the sudden transportation' of the victorious Church called the 'elect of God' is known as the 'Rapture'.

The Old Testament saints are not included in the rapture of the sanctified perfected Church of the New Testament. They were not given the privilege to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (Matt.13:10,11,17). St. Paul says that the 'mystery which hath been hidden from ages' is made manifest now to the saints of the New Testament (Rom.16:25,26; ICor.2:7-10; Eph.3:3-6; Col.1:25,26; II Tim.1:9; IPet.1:10-12).

The Old Testament saints could not share the blessings of the sanctified, overcoming Church because of the defects found in the Levitical priesthood (Heb.7:11). (i) The animal sacrifice which they offered could not take away their sin or cleanse their conscience (Heb.10:1,2); it only covered their sins. (ii) The law given by the hand of Moses could not make anything perfect (Heb.7:19). (iii) The priests themselves could not practise sanctification and perfection in their lives (Heb.9:9). So God had to change the priesthood. He ordained a new priesthood having made Jesus a perfect sacrifice without spot, and as a perfect Priest after the order of Melchisedec (Heb. 9:13,14; 5:5-10). Therefore, the Old Testament saints who could not be perfected have no part in the rapture of the Church at the secret coming of the Lord.

Even in the New Testament, all the born-again believers will not be caught up when Jesus comes, because a born-again person is only a child of God. He has to be baptized in water by immersion and be filled in the Holy Spirit to become a member of the Body of Christ (ICor.12:13).

With all the above basic experiences, one is still 'a babe in Christ' (I Cor.3:1-3; Heb.5:13; 6:1,2) and has to grow thereafter to be a perfect man (Eph.4:13). It is for such a perfected Church, called the Bride of Christ or the 'chaste virgin' that Jesus is coming again (II Cor.11:2).



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Harvest

Jesus Christ will appear in the cloud to gather the tribulation martyrs (Rev.7:9-17). This gathering is called the 'Harvest'.

After the secret coming of Jesus, that is, after the manchild (the group of perfected saints) is caught up to the throne, there will be war in Heaven. Michael and his angels will fight with the dragon (Satan) and his angels, defeat them and cast them on to the earth (Rev.12:7-10). Then the dragon will give his seat, power and great authority to the beast, that is, the Antichrist (Rev.13:1-4). The Antichrist will reign on the earth for seven years. For the first three and a half years, there will be tribulation for the woman, that is the Church that is left behind (Rev.12:13-17). The Antichrist will persecute them and many will die as martyrs, refusing to deny the Lord Jesus and take the mark of the beast (Rev.13:7-17). To gather these martyrs Jesus will appear at the end of the 3 1/2 years. He will be seated upon a cloud, having on His head a golden crown and in His hand a sharp sickle (Rev.14:14-16). He will send forth His angels and gather together all those who died as martyrs in this period (Matt.24:30,31).

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Public Advent

Some do not believe that the perfected Church will be caught up to heaven, because they, like the children of Israel, expect the Messiah to come to the earth, to reign from the earthly Jerusalem. It is true that Jesus will come down from heaven to the earth but that is at the end of the seven years of tribulation. At that time He comes to judge the nations at the battle of Armageddon and take over the kingdoms of the world (Joel.3:1,2; Zech.14:1-3,9; Rev.19:11-21); He will come visibly then; 'every eye shall see Him' (Rev. 1:7); He will come 'in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ' (II Thess.1:8,9); He will destroy the wicked Antichrist 'with the spirit of his mouth' and 'with the brightness of his coming' (II Thess.2:8). However, let us not forget that this event takes place only after the seven years of tribulation and that the fully sanctified, victorious Church will be caught up before it.

From this we understand that the secret coming of Christ is very different from His public advent.

THE ORDERS OF RESURRECTION
We considered that only the victorious Church will be raptured at the secret coming of the Lord Jesus. You might then perhaps ask, "If that is so, when will the Old Testament saints and the remnant of the Church who did not partake in the rapture of the victorious Church be resurrected?"  The Bible speaks of seven orders of resurrection.

Concerning the resurrection of the righteous, St. Paul speaks of various orders of resurrection. He says, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming" (I Cor.15:22,23).
Daniel was also told that he belonged to a particular order of resurrection: "...thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot (group) at the end of the days" (Dan.12:13).

There also seems to be different grades in resurrection. Writing about certain Old Testament saints who were willing to be 'tortured, not accepting deliverance', St. Paul says, that they desired 'a better resurrection' (Heb.11:35).The resurrection of the dead can be divided into two main groups: (a) The resurrection of the righteous - they are resurrected to live for ever- more, and (b) the resurrection of the wicked - they are resurrected to be partakers of the second death. Those who are resurrected in the first six orders of Resurrection come under the category of the 'resurrection of the righteous' and those in the seventh order, under the 'resurrection of the wicked'. The first five orders of the Resurrection are called the 'First Resurrection', and the last two orders, the 'Second Resurrection'. Those who partake of the First Resurrection will be resurrected before the Millennial Reign. Those who partake of the Second Resurrection or those in the last two orders will be resurrected after the Millennial Reign during the White Throne Judgment.

i) CHRIST the firstfruits
Christ is said to be the first in the order of resurrection, for it is written, "Every man in his own order: Christ is the firstfruits". It is clear that there had been no other resurrection before Him (I Cor.15:20-23).

(ii) The Victorious Church
"They that are Christ's at his coming" (I Cor.15:23). This group does not include everyone in the Church, but only those saints who overcame all things as Jesus did, having done the whole will of God, even as Jesus did, and are caught up at His coming. Among them, those who have slept in the Lord will be resurrected first, at the coming of the Lord Jesus, and then those who are alive will be transformed and shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air (I Thess.4:16,17).

(iii) The Tribulation Martyrs
This group consists of only the martyrs who were martyred during the days of the Antichrist. They are those who were not ready to be caught up with the overcoming Church. They will rise at the end of the first three and a half years of tribulation (Rev.7:9-17; 14:14-16; 15:2,3).

iv) The Two Witnesses
They are Enoch and Elijah. They will be resurrected towards the end of the seven years of tribulation, before the battle of Armageddon. They are the firstfruits of the Old Testament saints (Rev.11:13).

(v) The Old Testament Saints and the General Martyrs
The resurrection of the Old Testament saints and the general martyrs will take place after the sounding of the seventh trumpet, when the battle of Armageddon is over, and when 'the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ' (Rev.6:9-11;11:15,18,19). By then, the Great Tribulation would have been over and the nations would have been judged.

All the above five groups will rise in their respective orders (Christ is risen already) and will reign with Christ on this earth for a thousand years. These are they that have part in the first resurrection. Concerning them it is said, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with him a thousand years" (Rev.20:6).

(vi) The Saved
All the saved ones will be resurrected together after the Millennium during the White Throne Judgment (Rev.20:5,11-15).  

(vii) The Unsaved
All the unsaved will rise during the White Throne Judgment to be judged according to the 'things which were written in the books, according to their works'. At the end of this judgment, these who were not found written in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev.20:11-15).
Those who come under the last two orders of Resurrection will be resurrected together and will be separated one from another before the White Throne (Matt.25:32).



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The Biggest News Story: Christ Returns!

Who: Jesus Christ, who came the first time to pay the penalty for our sins to become our Savior, returns to put an end to sin as our King (Revelation 11:15)! What: Christ puts an end to human misrule and sets up the long-promised Kingdom of God (Daniel 2:44). When: In the nick of time before humanity destroys itself (Matthew 24:22). Christ gave signs to identify the end time, but did not reveal the ";day and hour" (Matthew 24:36). Where: Starting with Jerusalem, this Kingdom will spread over the whole earth (Zechariah 14:3-4; Acts 1:11-12; Matthew 5:5; Revelation 5:10; Daniel 2:35). Why: Christ returns because it is part of God's plan to show love for everyone, to bring many children to glory (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9; Hebrews 2:10). How: God's laws‚€”the way He designed the universe to work‚€”will be taught, and obedience to them will bring real peace and prosperity. But most of all, following these holy laws will bring humanity into a loving family relationship with God and with each other (Isaiah 2:2-4).

Biblical description of Christ's return

Throughout the Bible, scripture after scripture describes Christ's return. These verses reveal what will happen when Christ ultimately returns to earth. Jesus Himself said His second coming is certain. After describing the earth-shaking events that will precede His return, He adds: "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:30-31). The apostle Paul further describes this gathering of the elect: "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Paul explains that at Christ's return "the dead in Christ will rise first." Accompanying them will be those "who are alive and remain": the faithful followers of Christ who are alive at that time. What else happens at the time of this resurrection, and what happens to Christ's followers who are still alive? Paul gives more details in 1 Corinthians 15. "Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell 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 trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality" (verses 50-53, New American Standard Bible, emphasis added throughout). Paul is clear about this resurrection: The dead are to be raised imperishable, and Christ's faithful followers who are alive at the time will be changed. God will instantaneously transform them from perishable to imperishable, mortal to immortal. Those in this resurrection, and those who are "changed," will be "raised in incorruption," "raised in power," "raised a spiritual body" (verses 42-44, New King James Version). God gives them eternal life at Christ's return, not before His return.

Kingdom of God on Earth

Notice what the apostle John says about this event: "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years" (Revelation 20:6). He adds that God makes those in this resurrection "a kingdom of priests to serve our God, and they shall rule on earth" (Revelation 5:10, Today's English Version). Why doesn't Christianity embrace the biblical picture of a kingdom coming to earth, introduced at the return of Christ with the sound of the last trumpet? Why is this not commonly taught in churches? The people who will be resurrected to eternal life at that time will rule on earth, not in heaven! Why? Because the Kingdom of God is established on earth at Christ's return. Notice Revelation 11:15: "Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!'"



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