“The Lord Himself will descend with a shout … and the dead in Christ will rise first. 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 4:16-17
The Bible does not give the timing of Jesus’ Second Coming. In fact Jesus tells us that He will come when the world least expects Him. However, believers are encouraged to look for His coming and be ready. As with His first coming He will come exactly at the right time.
On the biblical prophetic calendar the next event is when Jesus removes His church from the world. There is nothing in prophecy that must occur before that event so it could happen today or in a hundred years – only the Lord knows!
We are given a lot of information about what the world’s condition will be soon after the church is taken out. Jesus Himself gives us much information that has been recorded by Matthew (Chapters 24 & 25). There are many people and groups of people mentioned in the Bible who will live in that time. In consideration of the Bible’s description of the world’s condition at that time it seems quite plausible to believe that the church could be taken up soon. If that did happen then the people who feature in the tribulation period could already be alive today:
- The 144,000 Israelites, 12,000 from each tribe (Revelation 7 & 14)
- the two witnesses and those who kill and/or witness their death and resurrection (Revelation 11)
- the multitudes of new believers who are martyred during the tribulation and those who kill them
- The many unbelievers who will seek death (Revelation 6:15-16)
- the false prophet (Revelation 17 and later)
- the Beast, also called the Antichrist (1 John 2:18f; Revelation 13 and later)
- The many who will protect Israelites in a world of anti-Semitism worse even than the holocaust (Matthew 25:35f)
- The multitude of believing Jews and Gentiles who will enter the earthly kingdom at Christ’s Second Coming
There are other groups mentioned but this list is sufficient to awaken us to the times in which we live. People we live alongside may be included among those mentioned above.
Since there is the possibility that these events may take place soon, and the participants may be alive now, how should we conduct ourselves? The Apostle Paul gives an answer to that question in 2 Thessalonians 3:6f. It is evident from his letters that he expected that Jesus might return in his lifetime. His instruction to the believers of his time is equally valid for our time. At such a time we cannot be idle.
Because there may be little time that is not reason to sit back and wait, it is reason to be acting in full obedience to the Great Commission. Jesus’ command to make disciples is not rescinded and He makes no mention of a retirement plan this side of heaven (Matthew 28:19-20).