"For as lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be...Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened and the moon shall not give her light...And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then shall all of 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 24:27-30.
Many people are confused today concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am often asked, "Are you pre-trib, mid-tribe or post-trib?" The above verses shows Christ coming at the end of the seven years of tribulation. At this coming, He will touch down on the Mount of Olives in Israel (Zech. 14:4). If this were the only reference given in God’s Word, we would have to agree that Christ is not coming until the tribulation is over, however, let us consider other Scriptures. II Timothy 2:15 warns us to "rightly divide the Word of truth." We ask the Holy Spirit to give us aide in doing this very thing.
Christ’s Coming at the Tribulation’s End: There are a number of references in the Bible speaking of the "Power and Great Glory" coming. Zechariah 14:1-21. We cannot record all the verses of this chapter here, but I admonish you to read this chapter. Some highlights are: Verse 1: "Behold the Day of the Lord cometh." The Day of the Lord always refers to "the Day when the Lord Jesus Christ reigns." Verses 2-3 show that at the time of this coming, there will be a great battle, in which the King, the Lord Jesus will fight the nations "...as when He fought in the day of battle."
The Prophet Joel also spoke of the coming of Christ and the great "Battle of Armageddon" (Joel 1:15-2:1-11; 3:9-16), when Christ and His heavenly armies come at the end of the tribulation to destroy the enemies of the Lord. Apostle Paul says in Phil. 2:9-11, "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name; That at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God, the Father."
Revelation 19 through 22 describes the end of this world, as we know it. In chapter 19:1-8, we read of the saints (all the believers) in heaven with the Lord. Note the end has not yet been revealed at this point in Revelation. The people of God from the Old Testament, who believed in Christ (Messiah) looking forward to His coming the first time, and dying for all the sins, past, present and future, are there included in the "much people in heaven." Also, the overcoming Christians of the Church Age, called in chapter 4, "four and twenty elders and the four living creatures" are there with the Lord. Rev. 5:8-10, it says they are redeemed ones of every nation, kindred and tongue, so they are not some strange angelic beings, but people of God, who were seen worshipping in Rev. 4. They are the overcomers of the Church Age. Also, in verse 6 of Rev. 19 a great multitude are seen joining in the praise and worship in the heavens. In verse 7 & 8 this great multitude speaks and tells about the bride of Christ being arrayed in her beautiful garments of fine linen. This shows that not all the people of God in heaven will be the bride. God made provision for all to attain to this place, but many believers, the majority (the great multitude) do not qualify to be in the company of believers who will make up the Bride by not yielding completely to the Lord Jesus in this present life. In Revelation 7:9-17 we see these believers arrive in heaven at a later time. "These are they which came out of great tribulation" (Vs. 14). Notice that in V. 11, the Twenty-four Elders and the Living Creatures are already in heaven. (Read Rev. 5:8-9 & 11).
In Rev. 19:9 we see the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. At this great supper there will be the Old Testament Saints of God, who have been resurrected, there will be the great multitude of the Church Age (see Rev. 7:9-17) and others, and finally there will be the Beloved Lord Jesus and His Bride. What a glorious time that will be. We have gone into this explanation to show that the Church (all believers in Christ during this age) will at this time be already with the Lord in heaven.
Now, Rev. 19:11-16 tells us that Christ sitting on His white horse and the people of God (the saints of this Church Age) called His "armies" will come back with Him to judge the earth. This will take place at the end of the seven years of tribulation. This will be the "Power and Great Glory Coming." He is crowned as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Battle of Armageddon will commence. He will judge the "Antichrist and false prophet" (Rev. 19:20) and throw them in the Lake of Fire. He then will gather all the rest of the believers who were saved during the tribulation, but cast the beast worshippers, all those who have taken the mark of the beast into the Lake of Fire. Then will begin His One-thousand year reign of peace on the earth. The people of God in heaven will rule with Christ in various measures during the reign of peace. After that comes eternity, living with the Lord and doing His purposes forever and ever.
Christ’s Coming Before the Tribulation: The Apostle Paul writes of this in I Thessalonians 4:13-18, concerning the coming of the Lord for His people before the tribulation. Read this passage. Paul’s concern was that the Thessalonians would not grieve when their loved ones, who believed in Jesus as their Savior, died. Note Verses 13 - "That you sorrow not as others who have no hope." He states in verse 14, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." Paul did not speak here of the "Power and Great Glory Coming" when all the saints would come back with Christ to judge the earth, but Christ’s appearing in the heaven to call up His people before tribulation, that "hope" of resurrection before the wrath of God comes to the earth. This hope is spoken of in Titus 2:13, "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ."
Reading on in I Thessalonians 4:15-18, "For this I 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 [precede] them which are asleep (dead in their graves). 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." Consider the words you have just read. There is a contrast between these words and the ones we read about the "Great and Glorious Coming of Christ at the end of the seven years tribulation.
CONTRAST BETWEEN THE PRE AND POST TRIB. COMING OF CHRIST:
Pre-Trib – Christ will appear in heaven and call up some believers, those in graves will be resurrected and those who are alive, translated. We shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air (It does not say He comes & stands on Mt. Olives in Israel). At the end of tribulation they are already in Heaven.
Post Trib – Christ and His people with Him as His army will come to judge the earth. He comes in power & great glory decked out as a warrior, with sword and etc.
I Thessalonians 5 gives us more information about being ready for the coming of Christ. Many believers are cold and indifferent toward the things of the Lord. Many don’t even know about Christ’s coming. In God’s divine provision He has provided everything for every believer to be an overcomer in Christ, radiating the life of Christ from their lives, and ready for the Lord to come. Verse 2 says, "... the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." A thief comes when no one is expecting Him. This is an example of how the coming of Jesus before the tribulation will take place. Some believers, who are seeking to be in that group who are the Bride of Christ, will be watching and waiting for Him to come. Other believers will be asleep and unaware of His coming. Because of this they will not go when He calls the first time, but will enter into tribulation for a period of time. We see them in Rev. 7:9-17. They are the "great multitude." Unbelievers on the earth will not know what took place and will probably think that the overcomers have been abducted by aliens or some other bazaar explanation.
I Thessalonians 5:3 gives us a clue as to when He will return, "For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." One of the signs of the soon return of the Lord Jesus Christ is that the Antichrist, although not recognized by the world as the evil one, will make a peace agreement with Israel just before the seven years of tribulation will begin (See Daniel 9:27). This "crying for peace and safety" speaks of that time when the world will be diligently seeking peace. That time is upon us at the present time. Mankind will think that peace has finally been achieved.
We are admonished to "watch," and "be ready" in more than one place in the Word of God. "Sudden destruction" will come upon this world, as the tribulation of judgment begins. When the Antichrist makes this peace treaty, the world will marvel after him. "And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" Revelation 13:8.
I Corinthians 15:51-52 admonishes us by saying, "Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in a 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." This is our Blessed Hope. As we see all the signs around showing the very soon appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ, let us be diligent and press on. What a thrill it will be to see Jesus face to face! "For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known" I Cor. 13:12. Let us stand fast. He is coming so soon!