Will Jesus Christ return tonight? Let's go through the Bible to see what Jesus Himself said must happen before His Second Coming—and whether that includes a sudden rapture of His true believers. Watch this episode of Tomorrow's World to identify these prophesied signs.
[The text below represents an edited transcript of this Tomorrow’s World program.]
There’s a popular myth that the second coming of Jesus Christ can happen at any time—maybe even tonight. Do you realize, dear friends, that is a false doctrine? He will not come tonight—not according to the Word of God. But wait, you may think. Doesn’t He return in a secret rapture that can happen at any moment to protect His true servants from the great tribulation? Again, not according to the Bible.
On today’s Tomorrow’s World program, instead of looking to popular Left Behind novels, we’ll open up the Bible and see what it actually says about this subject. We’ll see that Jesus Himself listed specific signs that must precede His return. What are they? And more importantly, what is the warning He gave along with that first sign? It’s an important one.
No, Jesus will not come tonight, tomorrow, this year, next year, or the year after. You or I may die tonight, and we’ll meet Him in our next conscious moment, but He will not return to earth tonight, not even in a secret rapture. Stay with me as I’ll be back to answer these important questions from the pages of the Bible. And I’ll also reveal what Jesus gave as the first sign of the end of the age, and just as importantly, the warning He gave that accompanies that sign.
A warm welcome to all of you from all of us here at Tomorrow’s World, where we ask serious questions and give solid answers—straight from the pages of the Bible. We’re pleased that you have joined us on today’s program, and we give a special welcome to those of you tuning in for the first time. Today, I’m asking and answering the questions:
“Can Jesus come at just anytime? Is there a secret rapture? And what was Jesus’ first sign of the end of the age and the warning that accompanies it?”
You’ve likely heard someone, perhaps a professing Christian minister, say that Jesus can come at any time—maybe even tonight. Setting aside the subject of the rapture for a moment, some have concluded this based on a misunderstanding of Matthew 24, where it tells us in verse 36,
But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only (Matthew 24:36).
Then, in verses 42 to 44, we read what appears to many as confirmation:
Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
It’s true that no one knows the day or the hour, but that is not the same as saying He can come at any time. These verses must be taken in the context in which they are written—in other words, what goes before and what follows. If we start at the beginning of Matthew 24, we find Jesus’ disciples asking about the destruction of the temple and the time of His return. Notice beginning in verse 3:
Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be?
[That is the destruction of the temple]
And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3).
His disciples understood that a series of events must take place before the climax at the end, and He confirmed this with a list of signs to watch for that would precede His return. A number of these signs are ongoing, taking place throughout human history. That’s why He tells us in verse 6,
See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet (Matthew 24:6).
And then in verse 8,
All these are the beginning of sorrows (Matthew 24:8).
However, when we compare these signs that Jesus gave in Matthew 24 with the famed “Four Horsemen” of Revelation chapter 6, we must conclude that such catastrophes as war, famine, and disease will take on greater significance in the near future as they are precursors of the Day of the Lord when Christ returns. And among the signs given, it would do us well to note a very specific one found in verse 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) (Matthew 24:15).
Notice that Jesus refers to the prophet Daniel regarding this sign. We read of it in Daniel chapter 12, where it clearly shows the time setting to be “the time of the end.” Notice it in verse 4:
But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end.
[Then in verse 9, we read…]
And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4, 9).
In verse 11, Daniel records this message that gives a specific time between when this abomination is set up and the end when the Messiah, Jesus Christ, returns:
And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days (Daniel 12:11).
That is 3 years and 7 months. There are three settings involving the abomination of desolation. Two are past tense and the third is yet to come.
#1 In 168 B.C., it took place under Antiochus Epiphanes.
#2 The destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
And the third one is yet to come: 1,290 Days before Christ returns.
Since that destructive abomination has not yet occurred, and that takes place 1,290 days prior to the end, when the Messiah Jesus Christ returns, we know that He will not come tonight, or, at the very least, another 3 years and 7 months. But that is merely one sign. Others precede the Abomination of Desolation, as shown in Matthew 24 and elsewhere.
How ironic it is that people conclude that Jesus can come at any time when a chapter they use as proof is devoted to describing what must first happen. It’s in the context of these signs, that Jesus admonishes us, in verses 32 and 33:
Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! (Matthew 24:32–33).
It’s only after He gave this parable of the fig tree that He mentions that no one would know the exact day or hour.
But what about a secret rapture that we are told can come at any time? Does the Bible teach it? And what is the first sign that Jesus gave signaling the end of the age and the warning that accompanies that sign?
The passage most often used regarding a secret rapture is found in 1 Thessalonians 4, beginning in verse 13:
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus (1 Thess 4:13–14).
This is the context: those who have died in the faith and why those who know the truth need not sorrow as others who have no hope. That hope is, of course, the resurrection from the dead. Paul then gives this further encouragement and explanation in verses 15 and 16:
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. 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 (1 Thessalonians 4:15–16).
Notice the order of the resurrection—those already dead will be resurrected first. Yet, the man-made rapture doctrine purports that the rapture protects believers from the Great Tribulation by taking them to heaven. Why take the dead? Do they need protection?
And let us not forget when this occurs:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
It is only after the trumpet sounds and the dead are raised that those living at the time will be changed. Read it for yourself in verse 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 (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
Then Paul brings the subject full circle to the purpose of this passage:
Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
Yes, the subject is not some kind of rapture, which is never spoken of in these verses, but how to comfort one another over the death of loved ones. Furthermore, the New Testament is absolutely consistent regarding the coming of Christ—He returns at the sounding of a trumpet, whether literal or figurative, but it is not just any trumpet. Let’s notice this detail provided in 1 Corinthians 15 and verses 51 and 52:
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep
[That is, we shall not all die.]
but we shall all be changed—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 (1 Corinthians 15:51—52).
Did you notice that:
“…at the last trumpet….”
And that leads us to the book of Revelation where we read of seven trumpets that portend natural disasters and warfare, with a spectacular event occurring at the sounding of the last, that is the seventh trumpet. Let’s read it in Revelation the 11th chapter and verse 15:
Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15).
So far we’ve seen that Jesus will not return at just any time and that the passage most often referred to by rapturists has nothing to do with a secret rapture. So let’s now turn to the next question: What is the first sign Jesus gave leading up to His second coming?
Perhaps you already know the answer, but more importantly do you also know the warning Jesus gave along with that sign? And what relationship does that have to you?
Three chapters in the Bible, written by three different authors, record what is known as the “Olivet Prophecy”:
[and] Luke 21
We find that Jesus and His disciples had left the Temple and were going out to the Mount of Olives just across a narrow valley. As they went, the disciples were in awe of the beauty of the Temple. It was then that they asked Jesus, and He informed them:
Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down (Matthew 24:2).
That’s found in Matthew 24 and verse 2. Not surprisingly, the disciples wanted to know when this would happen and as they sat on the Mount, they asked this twofold question:
Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age? (Matthew 24:3)
The answer had a former fulfillment and a latter-day fulfillment. The former fulfillment had to do with the destruction of the temple that we know from history took place in 70 A.D. Incredibly, some scholars believe the whole prophecy only applied to the events in 70 A.D., but even a child can understand that this prophecy also has an end-time fulfillment. Let’s read the latter part of verse 3 once again:
And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?
We know that the second coming did not take place in 70 A.D., nor was that the end of the age. We also know that some of the specifics of this prophecy can only apply to the time of Christ’s return. As an example, we read verses 21 and 22:
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. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened (Matthew 24:21–22).
There can only be one such time as this, for as it says, “nor ever shall be.” And a simple reading of the book of Revelation, written around 90 A.D. after Jerusalem fell describes a time of worldwide trouble far greater than anything mankind has ever known. Daniel 12 also refers to this worst of all possible times and connects it with the time of the resurrection from the dead at Christ’s return:
And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:1–2).
Clearly, there can be no two times worse than anything before or after. So what is the first sign Jesus gave? Right after the disciples asked about the signs of His coming, we read in Matthew 24 and in verses 4 and 5:
And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:4–5).
So the first sign Jesus gave was religious deception, but not just any religious deception. It’s speaking about Christian deception. And regarding that deception, Jesus gave this warning:
Take heed that no one deceives you (Matthew 24:4).
If you’re driving down a dark road at night and see a sign—“Bridge out” —would you not take the warning seriously and take another road? So why do so few take Jesus’ warning seriously? Let’s read it again in Matthew the 24th chapter:
Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many (Matthew 24:4–5).
Let’s analyze this. Jesus said,
“many will come in My name.”
It’s not a few, but many who will come using His name. But what does that mean? If someone knocks on your door and shouts, “Open up in the name of the law,” he’s claiming he represents the law and its authority. And when ministers “come in Jesus’ name,” they’re claiming to represent Him and having His authority. In addition, these deceivers say,
“I am the Christ”!
And by doing so,
“Will deceive many.”
There are a few deranged individuals who claim that they are the Christ, but few follow them. But false ministers do deceive many when they claim that they represent Christ, even saying that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ. The statement “I am the Christ” is understood from the context. Taken alone it could mean that these deceivers are claiming to be Christ, but the context shows that they claim to be representatives of Christ and proclaim that Jesus—remember He is the Speaker here—is the Christ. With such tactics, they deceive, not the few, but the many. That is why Jesus began this first sign by saying,
Take heed that no one deceives you.
Few claiming to be Jesus will deceive very many, but if someone in the pulpit claims to represent Him, saying that Jesus is the Christ, that’s another matter, and that’s what we see. False Christianity began almost immediately following Jesus’ death and resurrection but wholly took over the Roman Empire in the fourth century and continues to the present. The Apostle Paul describes the problem on more than one occasion. But let’s look at what Paul wrote to those at Corinth—2 Corinthians the 11th chapter:
But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it! (2 Corinthians 11:3–4).
These were believers, but they were putting up with ministers deceiving them with a false Christ and a different gospel—a Christianity of a very different spirit. He continues his warning about these deceivers in verses 13–15:
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works (2 Corinthians 11:13–15).
Consider for a moment. Is it possible that you have been deceived?
Consider whether the popular belief in the Rapture is one of the many deceptions pawned off on professing Christians. Don’t you be deceived, no matter how popular an idea may be.
Thank you for watching! To understand more about the popular false doctrine of the rapture, order your free copy of “Is the Rapture Your Incredible Future?” by clicking the link in the description. Remember to subscribe to our channel, so you can continue to learn the truth as given in the Bible. See you next time!