This question can have different meanings. If you just want to mark a date on your calendar so that you are ready, that would be tomorrow. And if it doesn’t happen tomorrow, move it to the next day, and repeat. That is a good way to stay ready. Jesus told us to be ready, because he will come when we don’t expect him. Blessed is the servant that the master finds alert and doing his will when he returns.
We don’t know the hour of Christ’s first return. That is made plainly clear in many passages of scripture. Behold I come as a thief in the night. Stay on the alert because you will not know the hour of my coming. The day and the hour no man knows. Etc.
However we do know when Christ’s final coming is, that is his second return, or what we refer to as the second coming. This is because the Old Testament prophet Daniel tells us it will be exactly three and a half years after the Anti-Christ stands in the rebuilt temple and declares himself to be God, demanding to be worshipped. The book of Revelation shows us that it will be the culminating event of the Battle of Armageddon.
So you see, Jesus himself tells us to stay on the alert and be ready because his coming will be a surprise. However the books of Daniel, Zechariah, and Revelation tell us exactly when the second coming occurs. If there isn’t a huge battle being fought in the physical location of the Valley of Armageddon in Israel, it ain’t happening today – or even this week. This is a real problem for those who believe in a post-tribulation rapture, or that the rapture and the second coming are the same event. How can they be the same event if they happen on both a known date and an unknown date?
While Jesus didn’t give us any clues about the day and the hour of the rapture, he did apparently want us to be cognizant of the seasons, as is evident from Matthew 24:32-33. To anyone paying attention to the news these days, the signs of the end times that he described in Matthew 24:7 would certainly appear to be upon us. But more importantly, the entirety of scripture shows us that the degradation of society always precedes God’s judgments. How much worse can it get than it is now, with sexual immortality (of all kinds) being celebrated on prime time television and pasted on highway billboards.
However the most significant factor revealing to us that we are living in the last days is the fact that Israel has been miraculously re-gathered from the four corners of the earth again, back into the promised land as according to Biblical prophecy, and obviously for the last time. Did you know that the time period from Adam to Abraham was approximately 2,000 years, and from Abraham to Jesus was approximately 2,000 years, and from Jesus to now is also an approximate 2,000 year period? Interesting that 7 is the number of completion in the Bible and that the Millennial reign of Christ on this earth will last exactly 1,000 years.
The Two Trumpets
Many of those who think that the rapture and the second coming are the same thing, have two different trumpets that are mentioned in scripture confused. The last trumpet that is mentioned when Paul describes the rapture in 1 Corinthians 15:52 must be a different trumpet than the one Jesus mentions when he is talking about his second coming in Matthew 24:30-31 (which is also the last of the seven trumpet judgments in Revelation). This is, again, because these two different second-coming events cannot be the same thing or happen at the same time being as one happens on a known date and the other happens on an unknown date.
Jesus himself told his Apostles that if they had studied their scripture well enough, they would have known the exact date of his first coming (referring to his unveiling as the Messiah, when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey on the day that churches now celebrate as Palm Sunday). He was referring to the book of Daniel, more specifically Daniel 9:25. Interestingly enough, the Old Testament prophet Daniel also gives the exact date of his second coming in Daniel 12:11-13. But Jesus tells us to stay on the alert because we do not know the day of his second coming, that he will come when we do not expect it, like a thief in the night.
There is no way to reconcile that without A) denying the prophecy in Daniel that gives us the exact date of his second coming, even after Jesus himself referred to that prophet as having told the exact date of his first coming, B) denying the statements of Jesus that no man knows the day or the hour of his second coming, or C) understanding that they are referring to two different events separated by a measurable degree of time.
It is true that the concept of the rapture was not popularly taught during the dark and middle ages. But then again, after the Roman Empire adapted Christianity as the state religion (forming the Roman Catholic Church) not much scripture was taught at all until the Protestant reformation put the Bible in the hands of common people again. Daniel himself didn’t really understand what he was writing; he was told to seal the book up until the end times when knowledge will increase. Knowledge is now increasing, for those that are not resistant to it.
Finally, Paul himself assures us in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 that we Christians are not appointed to suffer wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. To suggest that the church will suffer God’s wrath during the tribulation period denies that passage of scripture. The reason we believe in a pre-tribulation rapture is because it is the only way all the scriptures make literal sense and all work together. The post-tribulation (no-rapture) viewpoint is bleak, has no hope for escaping the coming night, and most importantly must deny important passages of scripture.
But hey – it’s all good. We Christian brothers should not be arguing doctrinal points to the point of becoming bitter. We have enough trouble arguing with atheists. Jesus died for our sins and God raised him from the dead. He now sits on the right hand of God the father and is coming again soon to setup his perfect kingdom on this earth. The price of all our sins has been paid in full – and those of us who turn to him seeking forgiveness will be saved and have eternal life in paradise with Him. That is really the only important thing.