The End Times: Jesus’ Return According to Revelation

The Bible has recorded for us many teachings that Jesus gave His disciples concerning the end times and His second coming. As I’ve stated in many posts in this series on the End Times, Jesus clearly laid out four irrefutable conditions that would exist leading up to and including the time of His return. According to Jesus, His return will be:

  1. Sudden and unexpected
  2. Visible and unmistakable
  3. In a time of normalcy as in the days of Noah and Lot
  4. After the apostasy

If we are to take what Jesus said at face value, then we find ourselves in a dilemma as to how to deal with the apocalyptic events described in Revelation, the last book of the Bible. For example, in Revelation chapter 8, we read that one third of the earth will be burned up; one third of the sea life and ships destroyed; one third of the water poisoned; and one third of the sun, moon and stars darkened. And then in Revelation chapter 9, we read about the appearance of locusts who are able to sting men as a scorpion stings. Those who are stung by these creatures must endure the torment for five months without being able to die! And let’s not forget about the 100 pound hailstones that rain down upon men in Revelation chapter 16.

If all these aforementioned events take place before Jesus’ second coming, which is described in Revelation chapter 19, how could his return be sudden and unexpected? Wouldn’t everyone on the entire planet know about these things? Wouldn’t even the unbelievers be able to connect the dots? And what about the notion of normalcy? Even in our day, if a third of the sun was darkened wouldn’t it cause panic and mass hysteria on a global scale—hardly normal?

Of course, for those who interpret the entire book of Revelation figuratively, none of the four conditions mentioned earlier are an issue; however, it is a problem for those who hold to a literal interpretation. Therefore, since I do hold to a literal interpretation, I believe the only way for us to reconcile the events in Revelation with Jesus’ four preconditions is to place His actual second coming in Revelation chapter 6.

(12) I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood;
(13) and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.
(14) The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

(15) Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains;
(16) and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb;
(17) for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”1

Compare Revelation chapter 6, verses 12-17 with Mark chapter 13, verses 24-26 and you will see a strong correlation between these verses.

(24) But in those days, after that tribulation, THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT,
(25) AND THE STARS WILL BE FALLING from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken.

(26) Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN CLOUDS with great power and glory.2

Revelation chapter 6, verse 14 is clearly describing Jesus’ return to earth along with its parallel in Mark chapter 13, verse 26. At Jesus’ appearing, the elect will be gathered together by the angels3 but for the rest of the world it will be a time of great wrath. Apparently, no one has to council the unbelieving world on what the consequences will be for them at the time of Jesus’ return since they proclaim it right out of their own mouths! (Rev. 6:16-17)

Given that I have placed Jesus’ second coming as happening in the sixth seal of Revelation chapter 6, all the other judgements on the earth as described in the seventh seal, including the trumpet judgements and the six bowls of wrath, must take place after His return. This would also include the following:

  • The 144,000
  • The locusts from the bottomless pit
  • The 200 million man army
  • The two witnesses
  • The beast and false prophet
  • Armageddon
  • The 100 pound hailstones

Everything I’ve said up to this point probably sounds farfetched, troubling, and maybe even highly improbable, but consider that even in the middle of the discussion of Armageddon in Revelation chapter 16 we have a repeat of a familiar warning:

(Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.) (Rev. 16:15)

And again in Mark:

Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—
in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep.

What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’ (Mark 13:35-37)

What I think we need to remember is that tribulation is for believers, that is the Church, but judgement and wrath are for the unbelievers or unsaved. What believers would consider tribulation would not necessarily be considered tribulation by the unsaved. Given that Jesus said that the apostasy would precede His return, could it be that apostate Christians wouldn’t even notice they were in the tribulation? I suppose it’s possible since Jesus seems to go out of His way to warn us to be on the alert. Almost like when His apostles were in the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus told them to keep watch with Him so they wouldn’t fall into temptation—still they fell asleep. (Mark 14:34-42) Did they fall asleep because they didn’t understand what was about to transpire, that Jesus was about to be taken from them that night?

The Pre-Trib Rapturists don’t have to worry about any of the concerns discussed here since the Rapture will occur at any moment; they will be taken away; then all hell will break out on earth. Clean and simple. Maybe so, but I just don’t see any of that being taught anywhere in the Bible.


  1. Rev. 6:12-17 NASB 

  2. Mark 13:24-26 

  3. Gerard Sczepura, “The End Times: Arguments in Defense of a Post-Trib Rapture,” Theological Ruminations (blog), May 4, 2015, http://gerardsczepura.com/?p=630

The End Times: Arguments Against a Pre-Trib Rapture

I concluded my previous blog post by asking the question, “is the notion of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture really taught in Scripture?” The doctrine of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture is an assumption based on the belief in a 7-year tribulation which some have interpreted as Daniel’s 70th week. Pre-Trib Rapture proponents argue that God will remove the Church before the beginning of the great tribulation mentioned in the Book of Revelation. However, in the Book of Revelation, the Pre-Trib Rapture is conspicuous in its absence—it just isn’t taught! The doctrine was, in fact, created by John Nelson Darby in 1830.1

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of John Nelson Darby until I started doing research for this writing. I guess proponents of this fabrication aren’t that anxious to divulge its origins especially if it didn’t originate in 1611. So, while it’s not really known how Darby came up with this doctrine, I have my own theory. I believe Darby knew that the Pre-Trib Rapture was easier for congregations to swallow than the alternative actually taught in the Bible. As can be seen clearly in the Church today, the doctrine hasn’t lost even an ounce of its appeal.

In order to optimize the structure of my arguments, I’ve decided to partition my discussion of the Rapture in two separate posts. This blog post contains my analysis of the popular arguments that have been used to defend Darby’s Pre-Trib Rapture doctrine and in my next blog post, I’ll present my own arguments for a Post-Trib Rapture.

Multidimensional Second Coming

Noted author Hal Lindsey describes Jesus’ second coming in two phases, where the first phase is His secret unexpected return in the air and the second phase is His return where every eye will see Him.2 When Jesus described the signs of His second coming to His disciples, He said that it would be just like the days of Noah and like the days of Lot; where everyone was going about their normal business. (Luke 17:26-29 NASB) On the surface this seems to support the surprise return of the Lord before the start of the 7-year tribulation period. However, in the very next verse, Jesus makes clear that it will be the time of His visible return, “It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.” (Luke 17:30, emphasis mine) So, without taking any of the verses I’ve just mentioned out of context, the Scripture clearly teaches Jesus’ second coming will be a visible, not a secret event. Nowhere does Jesus even hint at His second coming being multidimensional.

The Tribulation is Not for Believers

There are many instances in Scripture to substantiate the fact that believers will experience tribulation in this life. The most well-known verse on this subject is given by Jesus in John 16:33 where He says, “’these things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.’” The Apostle Paul clearly teaches that believers will experience tribulation as he wrote in Romans 5:3, 8:35, and 12:12. So, in order for Pre-Trib proponents to say that God is somehow obligated to deliver believers from tribulation in unscriptural.

Punishing the Just with the Unjust

Another popular defense of a Pre-Trib Rapture is that God doesn’t punish the just along with the wicked. They always use the example of Lot being delivered from the destruction God brought upon Sodom. They will even go so far as to point out that God preserved Noah and his family when He brought about a flood to destroy all living things on the earth. However, an example they will never point out is when Moses brought numerous plagues upon the land of Egypt. At that time, God demonstrated that He was able to preserve Israel in the midst of the plagues that were being brought upon the Egyptians. As was spoken by God through Moses:

But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of flies will be there, in order that you may know that I, the LORD, am in the midst of the land.
‘I will put a division between My people and your people. Tomorrow this sign will occur.’ (Exod. 8:22-23)

I believe that God is able to protect His elect from any or all of the judgements that will be brought upon the earth during the Tribulation period. Not only do I believe that He can preserve His elect, but I believe that is exactly what He will do.

The Timing of Paul’s Snatching Away

The favorite verse that Pre-Trib Rapture proponents use to defend their position is 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:16-17)

As far as Pre-Trib proofs go, there are none more pervasive than 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. As far as importance is concerned, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 is to the Pre-Trib Rapture as John 3:16 is to salvation. But is the Apostle Paul really trying to teach a Pre-Tribulation Rapture? The only reference to the timing of the event is that it will occur along with the trumpet of God. Compare the language used in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 with the language used by Jesus when He describes His second coming as recorded by Matthew:

And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.
And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. (Matt. 24:30-31)

Notice that in Matthew 24:30, Jesus’ return is visible, not in secret as is taught by Hal Lindsey and other Pre-Trib proponents. It’s interesting to note that Jesus also refers to a trumpet which seems to coincide with Paul’s statement in 1 Thessalonians 4:16. The only reasonable conclusion we can arrive at is that the verses in 1 Thessalonians 4 and Matthew 24 are describing the same event.

A particularly troubling aspect of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is the “alive and remain” phrase. Wouldn’t saying just “alive” be enough to get the point across? But by saying “alive and remain” gives the reader the impression that it implies a special condition for those believers to be in at that time; and It would be special for those who have survived the Tribulation.

Clearly, the verses we’re considering in 1 Thessalonians and Matthew 24 strongly corroborate a Post-Tribulation Rapture position.

Seven-Year Tribulation Theory

As I’ve mentioned in the previous post in my End-Times series, there are two schools of thought on how to interpret Daniel’s 70 weeks. One school of thought says that there is a gap between Daniel’s 69th and 70th week and that it will be fulfilled by the Antichrist (or more accurately, the beast) during the 7-year Tribulation. The second school of thought says that Daniel’s 70th week has already been fulfilled by Jesus’ baptism and crucifixion; and had ended when the Jews stoned Stephen to death as recorded in the Book of Acts.

I don’t recall ever hearing any sermons or reading any books that taught Daniel’s 70 weeks have already been fulfilled. What I have heard were fantastic theories such as the Israelis secretly building a temple under the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and are waiting for the Antichrist to come and give them permission to raise it up!

Thief in the Night

There are many verses in Scripture that teach that Jesus’ second coming will be “like a thief in the night,” such as: Matt. 24:43, Luke 12:39, 1 Thess. 5:2, 2 Pet. 3:10, Rev. 3:3, and Rev. 16:15. This saying tends to give credence to the Pre-Trib Rapture theory since it appears to suggest that the second coming will be in secret. The problem with all this is that Jesus never taught that His return will be in secret or that it will be in two different stages. Every time Jesus talked about His second coming it was always in reference to the time when He will be revealed. Jesus’ analogy of His return being like a thief in the night was given as a warning to His hearers that His return will find many unprepared and that it will be when they least expect it. Since Jesus was talking only with His disciples (Mark 13:3) and not with the general public, we have to assume that His warnings about His second coming were intended for believers and not for the world at large.

Conclusion

Even though Jesus gave us a lot of information about His second coming, we still struggle to understand all that is written in the Scriptures concerning this important event. As a matter of fact, He even said that He told us “everything in advance.” (Mark 13:23) Many books have been written by authors who have attempted to lay out a clear timeline of the end-time events. I believe the assertions made in many of these books are based on presumptions that are not entirely scriptural. That being said, the approach I plan to take in my defense of a Post-Trib Rapture is to start with things that we already know for sure and use these as a key to understanding other more obscure scriptures. I’ve gleaned from Scripture what I believe to be three things which we know for sure:

  • Jesus’ second coming will be visible and unmistakable
  • His second coming will take many by surprise, as a thief in the night
  • At the time of His second coming, people will be going about their normal business as they always have done, e.g., as in the days of Noah and Lot.

I’ve used this same approach in previous posts to defend my proposition that salvation is by election. I think it worked well. Stay tuned…


  1. “John Nelson Darby and The Pre-Trib Rapture,” Thomas Ice, Pre-Trib Research Center, accessed April, 28, 2015, http://pre-trib.org/articles/view/john-nelson-darby-and-the-pre-trib-rapture

  2. Hal Lindsey, There’s a New World Coming: A Prophetic Odyssey, (Santa Ana, Vision House Publishers, 1973), 77-78.