What is the difference between the rapture and the second coming?

Are there any differences between the rapture of the church and Jesus Christ’s second coming? Are these the same event? Or are they two separate events? Before we can analyze this and answer the question, let’s define the rapture.

The Rapture

The rapture of the church is believed to be a future time when Christ will return to the earth and gather His church, the believers. The word “rapture” is not found in Scripture, but this does not take away from its truth. For example, the word “trinity” is not found in Scripture, but of course we believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as one Godhead. So where does the term “rapture” come from?

The Greek word for “rapture” is harpazō, which is found in Strong’s Concordance here:

ἁρπάζω harpázō, har-pad’-zo; from a derivative of G138; to seize (in various applications):—catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force).

“Rapture” comes from the Latin word rapio, which is the translation of the Greek. Another term used to describe the event of the Rapture is the “snatching away” or “catching away.”

Proponents of the rapture cite the following verses to support their belief:

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” – 1 Corinthians 15:51–55 KJV

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 KJV

Do the above verses justify the belief in a completely separate event from Christ’s second coming?

Rapture vs. Second Coming

Many believe that there is no such event as the rapture. Instead, the only future event left to come is Christ’s second coming to earth and the ushering in of eternity. However does the Bible support this claim? Are there any differences in the text that would support the belief of a separate gathering of believers known as the rapture? Let’s take a look. Below are several differences outlined in Scripture between the rapture of the church and Christ’s second coming:

Where is Christ?

  • At the rapture: Believers will meet the Lord in the air.

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17 KJV

  • At the second coming: Christ descends to the earth on the Mount of Olives.

“For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.” – Zechariah 14:2–4 KJV

How are people removed from the earth?

  • At the rapture: Jesus takes believers from the world.

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17 KJV

  • At the second coming: Angels gather the elect.

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” – Matthew 24:29–31 KJV

Who’s taken?

  • At the rapture: Believers are taken and the unbelievers are left.

“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:17 KJV

  • At the second coming: The wicked are taken and the believers are left.

“But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” – Matthew 24:37–41 KJV

When does Jesus come?

  • At the rapture: Jesus comes to rescue believers before the tribulation (i.e. Daniel’s 70th week).

“For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” – 1 Thessalonians 1:9–10 KJV

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” – 1 Thessalonians 5:9 KJV

“Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” – Revelation 3:10 KJV

  • At the second coming: Jesus comes after the tribulation to defeat Satan in the Battle of Armageddon and begin His millennial reign on Earth.

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” – Matthew 24:29–30 KJV

What are the signs?

  • At the rapture: There are no signs given prior to the rapture.

“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.” – Romans 13:11–12 KJV

“Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” – Philippians 4:5 KJV

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” – Titus 2:11–13 KJV

Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” – Revelation 3:11 KJV

  • At the second coming: There are many signs that precede the second coming.

“For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars . . . For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places . . . Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold . . . And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains . . . For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be . . . For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect . . . Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” – Matthew 24 KJV

Who is judged?

  • At the rapture: There are no mention of trials, tribulation, or judgment: only promise and encouragement.

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 KJV

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:25 KJV

  • At the second coming: There are trials, tribulations, and judgment.

For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.” – Zechariah 14:2–4 KJV

“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left . . . And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” – Matthew 25:31–32, 46 KJV

When are the dead resurrected?

  • At the rapture: The resurrection of the dead in Christ takes place after Christ descends, but before those alive are taken. Both those dead and alive meet Christ in the air.

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 KJV

  • At the second coming: The resurrection of the dead in Christ (tribulation saints) takes place after Christ defeats His enemies, the beast and false prophet are cast into the lake of fire, and Satan (the dragon) is cast into the bottomless pit. Then the dead in Christ (tribulation saints) come alive and meet Christ on Earth.

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war .. . And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS . . . And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh . . . And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” – Revelation 19–20 KJV

Conclusion

It is clear that the rapture of the church and the second coming of Christ are two separate events. The rapture of the church, the appearing of our savior in the clouds, is our blessed hope (Titus 2:13). As we await His near return, what are we to do as instructed by the Apostle Paul?

“Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:6 KJV