The Second Coming of Christ
Part 5: We Go Flying in the Sky
Matthew 24:36-44; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - July 15, 2015
*The great evangelist D.L. Moody often looked up when he prayed. Someone once asked him why, and Mr. Moody replied, "Because Heaven is up, where my Jesus is." (1)
*Tonight we are looking up, looking for the rapture and the second coming of Christ. And as we do, here are 3 good things to bear in mind.
1. First: We shouldn't invest too much in the debate.
*There is a pretty big debate over the Lord's return. Part of it centers on the warning the Lord gave in Matthew 24:15-18. And we have looked at this Scripture a couple of times, but I want to look at it one more time in context of the rapture.
*Starting in vs. 15, Jesus said:
15. "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place'' (whoever reads, let him understand),
16. then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
17. Let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house.
18. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes."
*The timing of this abomination of desolation is in debate, and we have to go back to the Old Testament Book of Daniel to understand the disagreement. In Daniel 9, the prophet was praying, confessing his sins and the sins of his people.
*In answer to his prayers, the Lord sent the angel Gabriel. Please listen again to part of the angel's message in Daniel 9:24-27. Speaking about the Jewish people, Gabriel said:
24. Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.
25. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times.
26. And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself (Thank God for the cross!); and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.
27. Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.''
*These words were spoken to Daniel 500 years before Jesus was born. And again, they are not talking about the church. They are talking about the Jews.
[PIC 1] Here is a chart of the 70 weeks. (2)
*Remember that the weeks here are weeks of years. The Book of Daniel is saying there will be 70 times 7, or 490 years, to the Kingdom of Messiah. Verse 25 tells us when that 490-year period began "from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem."
*In 445 BC the king of Persia issued a decree allowing the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem. From that date, 7 weeks plus 62 weeks, for a total of 69 weeks or 483 years were to pass before the coming of Messiah the Prince.
*That left one week unaccounted for. We know that the first 69 weeks ended when Messiah came, but the 70th week hasn't come yet. And we know this for a fact, because in Daniel 9:24, Gabriel said: "Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. (3)
*Of course transgression hasn't been finished, sin hasn't been ended, and the Lord is not sitting on His throne in Jerusalem for His thousand-year reign. The 70th week hasn't come yet, and that's good for us, because we never would have been born!
*The last week is the 7-year period of the Antichrist. Gabriel talked about it in Daniel 9:27, and said: "Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.''
*There is the Abomination of Desolation Jesus warned about in Matthew 24. So for the last 2,000 years there has been an unexpected gap for the church age. And the church age will have an end, so that the last of the 70 weeks can occur. But at what point will the church age end?
[PIC 2] -- This next chart highlights 3 possibilities. (4)
*The Pre-tribulation position is that the church will be raptured at the very beginning of the 70th week of tribulation. The Mid-tribulation position is that the church will be raptured in the middle of the 70th week, when the Antichrist breaks his peace treaty with Israel. The Post-tribulation position is that the church will be raptured at the end of the 70th week, when the Lord returns to defeat His enemies at the Battle of Armageddon, and set up His thousand-year reign on the earth. Some Bible-believing, Jesus-loving people hold each of these positions.
*One of Dave Hunt's eleven reasons for a Pre-trib rapture has to do with the relative peace and prosperity that precedes the rapture. We can see this truth in Matthew 24:36-42, where again Jesus said:
36. "But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.
37. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
38. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,
39. and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
40. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left.
41. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.
42. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming."
*Here Jesus tells us that the rapture is preceded by relative peace and prosperity. In contrast though, the Second Coming occurs in the midst of the worst war the world will ever see, and following the greatest devastation this planet will ever suffer. (5)
*In Matthew 24:21-22, Jesus said:
21. "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.
22. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened."
*In Revelation 6, John says:
12. I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.
13. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind.
14. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.
15. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains,
16. and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!
*That contrast between peace and devastation makes sense, but it's a little confusing, because remember that Daniel 9:27 talked about a covenant or peace treaty between the Antichrist and Israel during the 70th week. So there will be at least a measure of peace at the beginning of the Antichrist's reign. But he will break that treaty in the middle of the week.
*This Matthew passage then could also be used to make the case for a Mid-trib rapture. The important thing is not to get sidetracked by the debate. Issues like this can consume us, if we let them. And right now as Christians, we have more important things to do.
*When the Apostle Peter talked about the end of the world, he stressed how confusing God's Word can be. And in 2 Peter 3:15-18, the Apostle said for us to:
15. . . Account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,
16. as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which those who are untaught and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
17. You therefore, beloved, since you know these things beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked;
18. but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
*When it comes to the rapture and Jesus' second coming, some of these things won't be clear till the Lord returns. So we shouldn't invest too much in the debate.
2. But we should be informed about the difference.
*The best I can tell, there is strong evidence for the rapture and the second coming of Christ being two separate events. Dave Hunt gave eleven biblical reasons why these are two separate events. (5)
*For one example: At the Rapture, Christ does not return all the way to earth but catches believers up to meet Him in the sky, taking them directly to heaven. We see this happening in 1 Thess 4:17, where Paul said, "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."
*In contrast, at the second coming Jesus returns to this earth to rule Israel and the world from David's throne in Jerusalem. Zechariah 14:3-4 tells us:
3. Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle.
4. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south.
*And Revelation 19:11-15 says:
11. Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.
12. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.
13. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
14. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.
15. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
*There are many other reasons, and many of the Scriptures to show that the rapture will take place before the second coming of Christ. One website I saw gave 50 reasons for a Pre-trib rapture.
*Here are a few examples I hope to give you in a handout next week:
*Rapture - Christ comes for His own (John 14:3; 1 Thess 4:17).
-Return - Christ comes with His own (1 Thess 3:13; Jude 1:14; Rev 19:14).
*Rapture - Jesus comes in the air (1 Thess 4:17).
-Return - Jesus comes to the earth (Zechariah 14:1-9; Acts 1:11).
*Rapture - Jesus claims His Bride (1 Thess 4:16-17).
-Return - Jesus comes with His Bride (Revelation 19:6-14).
*Rapture - World is deceived (2 Thess 2:3-12).
-Return - Satan is bound (Revelation 20:1-2).
*When it comes to the rapture and the second coming of Christ, we should be informed about the difference
3. But most important of all, we should be inspired by the details.
 Tonight, let's look at the inspiration God gives us in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. The biggest and best thing here is that Jesus is coming back in the air for His church!
*We see this truth in vs. 13-16, where Paul said:
13. I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.
14. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
15. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.
16. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. . .
*Jesus is coming back in the air for His church! -- But that's not all.
 Verse 14 also tells us that the dead saints are coming down:
14. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
*This reminds us that when we belong to Jesus Christ and die, we immediately leave our earthly body and go to Heaven. God's Word confirms this great truth in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, where Paul said:
6. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.
7. For we walk by faith, not by sight.
8. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
*When Jesus comes back in the air for His church, every believer who has died in Jesus will be coming down from Heaven with Him. The dead saints are coming down! -- But that's not all.
 The bodies of those dead saints are coming out.
*They are coming out of the ground, out of the ocean, out of any place and every place they have been buried. This is an amazing thing to consider and we see it in vs. 16: "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."
*I like what it says there in vs. 16: "The Lord will descend from heaven with a shout." It reminds me of the time when Jesus went to Lazarus' grave after he had been dead for four days. Of course, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. And John 11:43 tells us that Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!'' Someone said the reason why Jesus called Lazarus by name is because if he didn't, that whole graveyard would have come out of the tombs!
*One day the Lord will give a mighty shout. And every believer will come out of the ground with a new body, a perfect body, just like the Lord has today!
*The bodies of those dead saints are coming out! About the only time you see this in the movies is in a horror movie: Zombies on the loose, night of the living dead or something like that. But the reality is going to be wonderful! This is the resurrection of the body for all Old and New Testament believers.
*The Apostle Paul discussed it in 1 Corinthians 15: 35-43, and there Paul began with a question:
35. Someone will say, "How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?''
36. Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies.
37. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain perhaps wheat or some other grain.
38. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.
39. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fish, and another of birds.
40. There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
41. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.
42. So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.
43. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.
*What about those who were burned up? -- That doesn't matter. What about those who were eaten by sharks and scattered through the sea? -- That doesn't matter either! God knows where every molecule is, and He is going to bring them back together!
*In 1833 there was a great meteor shower in the northeastern part of the United States. An old man ran down to the local cemetery, because he thought it was the coming of the Lord. Someone later asked why he went to the cemetery, and he said, "I want to see my dead friend go up in his new body. In his earlier years, a tree fell on him causing him to lose his arm. I want to see him with his new arm." (1)
*And one day he will! The bodies of the dead saints are coming out.
 Then we are coming up.
*We see this in truth in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, where Paul said, "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."
*This is the rapture of all living Christians, the church. Paul also focused on the rapture in 1 Corinthians 15:51-54:
51. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed
52. in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory.''
*"Death is swallowed up in victory,'' because of the cross of Jesus Christ! Death is swallowed up in victory for all who have trusted in our Risen Savior! Living believers, we are coming up.
 Then we will be coming together.
*It's the great reunion we see in vs. 17. "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."
*Moses will be there. So will Daniel, David, Peter, Paul, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And I look forward to seeing them there. But my mom and dad are also going to be there. My brother and sister are going to be there, too, and I am especially looking forward to seeing them.
*Mary's dad will be there too. We called him PapPap, and he died 26 years ago. I very seldom remember my dreams, but I remember a dream I had about PapPap. It was in the late 1990s, and PapPap had called me on the phone from Heaven. I could hear his voice just as clearly as you are hearing my voice right now. He was so happy! You could tell by the tone of his voice. PapPap told me about a book he had just finished reading. And he ended our conversation by talking about the Lord's return. PapPap said, "It won't be long now!"
*And I know that was just a dream, but let me tell you something: It won't be long now! That reunion is coming! We will be face to face with Jesus, and together forever with everyone who has trusted in the Lord. So Paul said in vs. 18, "Therefore comfort one another with these words."
*Do you have this comfort? The only way to get it is to receive Jesus as you Lord and Savior. Trust in the cross of Jesus Christ and the price He paid for your sins. Then you too will be ready for the rapture.
(1) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "I'll Fly Away - Rapture / Second Coming" by Jerry Shirley - 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 - June, 2004
http://momentin.us/study-guides.html - Revelation Study Guide Chapter 6 - Seal #1 - Moments in Bible Prophecy by Pastor Raymond L. Shockley
(3) Adapted from "Signs of Christ's Return - The Abomination of Desolation" by John MacArthur - Matthew 24:15 - http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/sg2369.htm - MacArthur's Sources: Sir Robert Anderson - "The Coming Prince" [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1954] and Harold Hoehner - "Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ" - Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977
(5) "Pre-Trib or Post-Trib Rapture" by Dave Hunt - Source: http://focusonjerusalem.com/pre-triborpost-tribrapture.html