Most people despise being duped or deceived. We long for reality; we don’t want an imitation. We want the real thing. I don’t want to accept a knock-off MP3 player when I can have an iPod, or better yet the 60 GB iPod. It’s just the real thing… it’s better. If you want a Coke, a Pepsi won’t do. We demand the real thing! We know God’s salvation is the real thing because we enjoy the promise, “He that hath the Son hath life” (1Jo 5:13). It is real because it is from the God of truth! Yet the Christian today is increasingly challenged by imitation, distortion, and deception regarding the things of God. Each day we are bombarded, distracted, and challenged especially in relation to the coming of Christ. “If I go away, I will come again and receive you unto Myself” (John 14:3). This is the grand and sure hope of every believer! “If it were not so I would have told you…” (John 14:4). This truth is a cornerstone of our faith, and a key reason why we are barraged with distortion and imitation by the deceiver regarding Christ’s coming. Are we “holding fast” this precious truth that He taught?
Paul states, “If in this life only we have hope we are of all men most miserable…” (1Co 15:19). His coming is the real thing and we believe it – but what do we know about it? Is it literal or spiritual? Are we looking eagerly for His Coming? Is there a millennium when Christ will reign on this earth? Is His coming for us premillennial? What we believe regarding His coming affects our doctrine of salvation (soteriology), our view of the person of Christ (Christology), the principles and truth of gathering (ecclesiology) and God’s eternal plan (eschatology). I’m sure that, like me, you want the real thing.
We know Who will come (John 14). We know how He will come (1Th 4). We know some of what will be happening in the world when He does come (2Pe 3). We know where He will come (1Th 4). But when He will come? We don’t know the day or the hour. We know that He can come at anytime (1Co 15). This is where distortion and deception find their place. Is it literal or spiritual? Is there more than one coming? What about Old Testament saints, tribulation saints, the Church? Will He come for different ones at different times? No! I don’t think so. For Thessalonians says He will come to the air for His saints. Those that sleep in Christ first then those who remain alive will be “caught-up” – what a beautiful word! What a joyous surprise!
So what can we glean to set our expectations for His coming? Will we go through the tribulation as some today say before He comes? Will we go through part of the tribulation? What about the millennium – how do I know there even is a literal millennium coming? There are many ideas of men about when He will come. Rest assured that, as His Word teaches, His coming to the air for His saints is clear and literal.
We, the saints living today, will not see the tribulation (1Th 1:10; Rev 3:10) and the tribulation will precede the 1000-year reign of Christ (Rev 20:3). Some would say the trumpet of 1 Thessalonians 4 falls within the trumpets of Revelation during the tribulation (thus teaching a mid-tribulation coming). Trumpets in Scripture are a certain sound, by a certain one, to a certain people. 1 Thessalonians 4 is the “trump of God”; in Revelation it is the trumpet that the angels sound. In 1 Thessalonians 4 it is to the saints. The trumpets in Revelation signal judgments to an ungodly world. Clearly the trumpet in 1 Thessalonians 4 is different in purpose and proclamation from the trumpets in Revelation. They do not coincide.
We know that Christ will come to the earth the end of the tribulation. Could the rapture take place then? No, because Christ will come in judgment and bring the armies of the saints with Him (Rev 19 and Zec 14). The saints must be with Christ before He comes to the earth because we will reign with Him. He Himself will come literally to the air for the church before the tribulation and before He comes to the earth for His literal 1000-year reign. Thank God it is real! Believers have the real thing!