The King Is Coming
The King is Coming and We’ll be there for His Return!
At this time of year we look back to the manger, to the first appearance of the Son of God as man born of a woman, God in the flesh. But even as we look back, we should also look forward to His bodily return, when He will come a second time to bring us our ultimate salvation.
Please keep in mind that the physical Jesus who was laid in a manger as a baby, and who walked the earth as a man, is the same physical Jesus who will return. Yes, of course, His earthly body will be glorified; it will be His earthly body made new. So although we didn’t see Him at His first coming, we will see Him in the sky, and we shall worship Him and give Him glory for all of eternity. And incredibly, our bodies shall be made like His glorious body (Philippians 3:20-21).
Imagine you’re having a typical day at home or at the office, and then without warning, you are in the presence of Christ. You have a new body and are in an entirely different realm of existence. Jesus is beside you. Friends who have died and gone to heaven are there, and you find yourself mingling with an innumerable host of people, all suspended in mid-air. You are reunited with your mother, father, and friends long since forgotten. But the focus is on your leader, your Savior, King Jesus, who returned as He promised. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).
When I prepared to preach a message on the rapture, a friend said to me, “You’re speaking on the rapture? The word ‘rapture’ doesn’t even occur in the Bible!” Technically, in English this may be true, but take a moment to consider Paul’s words, “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
The Latin word for “caught up” is rapturo, from which we get the word rapture. So it is true that English translations do not have the word rapture, but the rapture is a thoroughly biblical term. The day is coming when living Christians will be “caught up” to be with the Lord and each other forever. All Christians believe in the rapture; it is the timing of the rapture that has elicited controversy.
The bottom line is that the apostle Paul did not believe that prophecy should be left to “prophecy buffs” who spend time wondering if they know who the Antichrist is or whether the European Union is the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy. If we are sidetracked by such discussions we might miss the very purpose of why prophecy was given to us. Prophecy is intended for every believer because we are to live with the return of King Jesus as our focus and hope.
Repeatedly in the New Testament we are exhorted to await Christ’s return. Jesus warned that He would return in an hour when we are least expecting Him. At the rapture, both the dead and the living will be transformed: both groups will be given their new bodies and a new home. All of that will happen in “the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). We’d better be prepared!
Unraveling the Mysteries of Prophecy
In the Q&A section below, Dr. Lutzer explains why the prophecies surrounding Christ’s return can be confusing.
Q: Why is prophecy so controversial? Why can’t Bible scholars agree on the sequence of events that will take place in the future?
A: Great question.
There are several reasons for the disagreements. Though the Bible tells us what will happen, it doesn’t provide the sequence. Because so many prophecies are scattered throughout Scripture, studying prophecy is like putting a puzzle together without a picture on the box.
Also, prophecy is often given in symbols, visions, etc. Some of us take the prophetic passage more literally than others, so there is widespread disagreement about the author’s intended meaning. The passages themselves allow for a difference of opinion.
Q: What do the terms “pre-tribulation” and “post-tribulation” mean? And is this distinction important for us?
A: Simply put, if you are a pre-tribulationist you believe that the coming of Jesus is in two stages: First, Jesus will come and the church will “meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Then, after a period of tribulation for those left behind, Jesus will descend in glory to the Mount of Olives and we will be with Him (Revelation 19:11-21). One reason why I have always believed in the pre-tribulation rapture is because these two events appear to be so different that they must happen at different times. If you are a post-tribulationist, you believe that the church will go through the tribulation and so the rapture and the glorious return are the same event. Many books, emphasizing either view, have been written about this.
Q: And isn’t there a similar controversy about the millennium?
A: Yes. Except in this case the question is whether there will be a literal millennial kingdom on Earth or not. Amillennialists believe that there will not be a millennium on Earth; they say that the prophecies of the Old Testament about a time of peace, prosperity, and the rule of the Messiah are either fulfilled in heaven or are being fulfilled in the church today. Or, many believe that the Jews were unfaithful so the prophecies were cancelled. But as a premillennialist, I believe that Jesus will return before the millennium, and I have no doubt that when Gabriel spoke to Mary about her child, his message clearly taught that Jesus will reign over the kingdom David ruled on Earth (Luke 1:31-33).
Q: Do these controversies make any real difference?
A: Another good question!
In some ways, yes, these differences are important. But the good news is this: all Christians believe that Jesus is going to return to Earth bodily, visibly, and literally. All agree that everyone will be judged personally, and in the end, there will be only two final destinations: heaven and hell. And, all Christians who understand the Gospel believe that the dividing line is faith in Christ. He alone is the Savior who can save us from our sins and prepare us to meet God. The purpose of prophecy is not to satisfy our curiosity but to help us remember that time is short and eternity is long, and we had better live in light of the fact that we shall all stand to give an account for the way we have lived (2 Corinthians 5:10).
The King is Coming!