God On The Net
ASTRONOMY PHOTOS AND EVANGELISM COMBINED
The Second Coming of Christ will occur in stages. First, He will remove all Christians from the Earth, to protect them. This is called "The Rapture." The term comes from the Latin verb raptare, and the Greek word harpizo, both meaning "to be caught up" or "to be snatched up." Jesus will "snatch us" out of harm's way.
1 Thessalonians 4:15-17  According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
About 85 percent of Christian theologians and Christians who have studied the Bible (as opposed to just reading it) believe in the Rapture and the Tribulation, which will be followed by a 1000 years of Christ reigning together with the resurrected saints (referred to as the Millennial Kingdom).
Christians who do not believe in the Rapture and the Millennial Kingdom are referred to as "amillennialists". They believe that mankind will simply become better and better through the efforts of the Church, and when mankind becomes holy enough Christ will return. However, the evidence of the general moral deterioration of mankind in the twentieth century seems to disprove this view. Also, Jesus said that in the end days people will become more cruel, not less:
Matthew 24:3-12  Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"
 "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.** ...  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.
 "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake.  And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.  Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.  And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.
** It is important to understand that although we routinely "hear of war and rumors of wars" and "nation[s] rise against nation" and the Old Testament mentions a lot of wars, historically most people lived their entire lives without seeing or hearing of wars. There may have been an individual battle, that affected them, but not a war.
People who claim the Rapture is a false teaching usually base their assertion on two false beliefs:
The facts are otherwise:
For an excellent discussion of the four views on the Rapture (referred to as pretrib, midtrib, posttrib and amillennial) see Lindsay, Hal. The Rapture New York, Bantam Books, 1985.
Also, the Rapture is analogous to first-century Jewish marriage customs and is a prelude to The Marriage of Jesus Christ and The Elect.
After The Rapture, God will begin executing judgments against unbelievers, during a period called the Tribulation. At the end of the Tribulation all nations will attack Israel, and Jesus Christ will physically return, leading the armies of heaven. At the Battle of Armeggedon they will destroy everyone who is not a believer. Then Satan will be bound, and Jesus will set up the Millennial Kingdom, headquartered in Jerusalem. Jesus and the saints will rule over the nations of the Earth for a thousand years. During this period there will be people born who are not loyal to Christ. However, it usually will not be obvious. Therefore, at the end of the thousand-year period, God will release Satan and let him tempt those who inhabit the Earth. A large group will take up arms against the Lord and be defeated. Then, Christ will judge all who have ever lived, giving rewards to some and punishment to others. Those who were "destroyed" will be cast into the Lake of Fire, i.e., Hell. After that, God will destroy heaven and Earth because they have been polluted by sin. He will create a new heaven and a new Earth, put those who were saved on the new Earth, and rule it forever.
For an interesting insight into conditions likely to occur
immediately following the Rapture see The Post-Rapture
The end-time scenario is spread out mainly over the following
books and sections: Revelation, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel,
Ezekiel, the Gospels, Zechariah, Zephaniah, Joel, 1 Corinthians 15:51,
1 Thessalonians 4:13.
Because these things have not occurred yet, we must take it on faith that they will come to pass. Basically, we assume that because God has a perfect track record on prophecies that have come true we can rely on His word about prophecies that remain unfulfilled.
Study of prophecy about end times is called eschatology. It is a separate field from Christian Apologetics and a detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this web site.
(c) 1998-2011 by Rick Reinckens