I But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of
heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of
Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark,
and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away;
so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.
Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.
Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left.
Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in
what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake
and would not have let his house be broken into.
Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at
an unexpected hour. (Matthew 24:36-44, NRSV).
From the very hour in which our Lord Jesus Christ was caught up in His ascension to the Father, Christian believers everywhere have rejoiced in their hope of His Second Coming. The apostles watched Jesus ascend, and then after He was out of sight, angels came and wakened the disciples from their trance, saying Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven (Acts 1:11, NRSV).
Surely, Christ’s Second Coming is of the utmost importance for all believers. But we must also give attention to all that Jesus and His apostles said about our preparation for His coming.
We learn from Jesus and His apostles that the Second Coming will have two phases—He will come first to rapture (“catch away”) His Bride. The world and those not ready for His coming will not see Him. 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 (I Thessalonians 4:16-17, NKJV).
The second phase of the Second Coming will be a Revelation—He will return to the very place from which He ascended: to the Mount of Olives in a great earthquake. The prophet Zechariah predicted five centuries before Christ’s coming to earth as a Babe in the manger that He would return: On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south (Zechariah 14:4 NIV). Jesus Himself confirmed Zechariah’s prophecy by saying, For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. . . . 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 (Matthew 24:27, 30, NIV).
The earth to which Jesus returns in the second phase of His coming will be to one filled with tragedy and sorrow because of rejecting the Savior and believing the lies of the Antichrist. The apostle Paul predicted that those believers on earth living just before the rapture would be affected by the preliminary invasions of the evil spirits of the Antichrist: The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness (II Thessalonians 2:9-12, NIV).
But now I wish to return to Jesus’ concern for those of us who are living still this side of the rapture. With all the love of His great heart, He passionately warns us to prepare for His coming to catch us away. He warns that there will be no posters announcing the time of His coming, no calls from Heaven to make appointments. We must be ready! Now I cannot believe that Jesus wants all of His born-again believers to walk around in paralyzed fear of missing the Rapture. He wants us to simply and seriously pray in the Spirit, live and walk in the Spirit, love one another, encourage one another to live in holiness and power and allow the Spirit to search our hearts, reveal those sins and shortfalls in disobedience, and convict us for repentance and renewing grace.
Jesus knew that just before His coming to rapture the Church His followers would be under dire attacks by highly trained hordes of wicked spirits seeking to delude, destroy, and distract believers from their love and faith in Christ. The Savior knew what the times would be like just before He raptured His own. So He said: The sky and the earth (that is, the universe, the world) will pass away; but My words will not pass away. But take heed to yourselves and be on your guard lest your hearts be overburdened and depressed—weighed down—with the giddiness and headache and nausea of self-indulgence, drunkenness, and worldly worries and cares pertaining to (the business of) this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap or a noose; for it will come upon all who live upon the face of the entire earth. Keep awake then and watch at all times (that is, be discreet, attentive and ready); praying that you may have the full strength and ability and be accounted worthy to escape all these things [taken together] that will take place, and to stand in the presence of the Son of man (Luke 21:33-36, ANT).
Consider the conditions that Jesus condemned in five of the seven churches in Revelation 2:1-3:22. Ephesus, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, and Laodicea were called to repent, and all seven were warned, He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Revelation 2:7, NIV).
Ephesus received the shocking news that it had left its first love (Revelation 2:4, NKJV). Pergamum was charged with compromise because you have those who hold the doctrine of Balaam (Revelation 2:14, NKJV). Thyatira tolerated the spirit of Jezebel and her adulterous actions to beguile the members of the church (Revelation 2:20, NRSV). Sardis was filled with nominal Christians who had a name of being alive, but it was dead (Revelation 3:1, NRSV). Laodicea, the final church, was neither cold nor hot, and made the Lord sick (Revelation 3:15, NRSV).
We can see that our Lord made it clear to these five churches that they were not ready for His coming, unless they repented. They could not expect to be caught up with Him if they remained in the conditions He charged them as being in. But He was ready to forgive, cleanse, renew, and restore them and bring them into a state of readiness if they had an ear to hear what the Spirit revealed and if they were ready to repent!
Dear Christian readers, we must take the Holy Spirit’s call to prayer seriously! Unless we pray, said Jesus, we’ll not realize the selfishness, worldliness, unbelief, and disobedience that will ensnare us. But as we pray humbly, honestly, and hungrily, the Spirit will reveal to us the sins we must confess, and He will witness to our hearts the peace, love, and faith that is being restored.
Only as we walk daily in fellowship with an ungrieved Holy Spirit can we live with the assurance that we shall be caught up with Our Lord when He returns.
So let each of us pray with the apostle Paul: May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make (me) holy and whole, put (me) together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep (me) fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called (me) is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it! (I Thessalonians 5:23-24, The Message).
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Jim and Shirley welcome a new great-grandchild, SADIE ESTELLE! After reading the book ESTELLE, parents Tim and Tara Tharp decided, “It’s time to have another ESTELLE in the Tharp Family!” We all agree!