It seems like there has always been a goodly number of folk who want to tell us just when Jesus is coming back. Some of those on the history books have been:
1) William Miller (Seventh Day Adventist Founder) who predicted Jesus' return for 1843. When his prediction failed then he said it was to be in 1844. Well, seemingly he again missed it.
2) Joseph Smith, (Founder of Mormonism), said Jesus was coming in l891.
3) Charles Taze Russell (Founder of "Jehovah Witnesses") predicted 1914, and then 1917. When Jesus did not appear, he then declared that Jesus came in spirit and only an elect few saw Him.
4) Willie Day Smith (Radio Preacher) of Irving, TX predicted April 1, 1980.
5) Prophet Ralph Cave, Sr., of the "God's Bible Class Church" of Addyston, Ohio, said God told him that God's wrath would begin on June 8, l980, and end in l999 at Christ's return.
6) Hal Linsey (Author of "The Late Great Planet Earth"), predicted May 14, 1981.
7) Bill Mauplin (Light House Truth Foundation of Tucson, AZ) predicted June 28, 1981, and then again on August 7, 1981.
8) Galen Bare (Springfield, MO Evangelist) predicted a "Planet Alignment", which would cause a catastrophic "wreck" among the planets. This was to occur at the end of 1982.
9) Thomas W. Staggs (Wichita, KS) said May 15, 1988 would be the end.
10) Edgar C. Whisenant declared Jesus' return in his book "88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Occur On September 11, 12 or 13, l988".
11) The Korean based "Coming Days Church", stated that October 28, 1992 would be day of Jesus' return.
As result of the above predictions many have been misled because they do not know that the Scriptures teach (Matthew 24:36) that no one knows when Jesus is coming again. The Bible warns us to beware of false teachers in the following passages: Matthew 7:15; II Timothy 4:3; II Peter 2:1. Besides these, there are many other warnings.
As I drove down the road a while back, I saw a bumper sticker on a car stating, "Danger--in case of rapture, this car will be without a driver." The word "Rapture" is not found in the Bible, but Webster's definition of it is, "the state of being carried away with joy, love, etc." In other words the teaching of the Rapture, that is, that God's people will be carried off to an eternal glory is in the Bible, even though the actual word is not in the Bible.
I Thessalonians 4:13-l7 does teach that the saved (both living and resurrected) will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air at Jesus' coming, but there is no indication that this rapture will be silent and secret so that it leaves those remaining on the earth mystified by their absence (no matter what some preachers, books, or movies teach--the Bible is not wrong).
In fact, the Bible teaches that the Rapture will be just the opposite. When Jesus comes, He will come with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and trumpet of God (I Thess. 4:16). Also, the Revelation letter says it shall be a visible coming of Jesus, seen by all. "Every eye shall see Him, and they also that pierced Him" (Rev.1:7). Now, that does not sound like a secret and silent Rapture, does it? Those holding to the Secret Rapture Theory try to say that following this Secret Rapture there will be seven years of tribulation upon those left (non-Christians). They build this theory from the prophecy of Daniel and Matthew 24:21-28 seemingly not realizing that these scriptures referred to the Jews and the fall of Jerusalem. This false teaching of Secret Rapture Theory also promotes that following the seven years of tribulation Jesus will return with the Saints and set up an earthly Kingdom from Jerusalem for a 1,000 literal years. From this teaching we get the word "Premillennialism". The Latin word "Millennium" means 1,000 years and the prefix "pre" means before----thus it means that Christ is going to reign as King on earth 1,000 years before eternity is ushered in.
This might sound good, but the Bible does not teach that Jesus is coming once for His Saints and then again with His Saints. The passage in I Thessalonians 4:13-l7 which is supposed to teach the former says, "...God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him." (v.14 - NIV); "To be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord." (See II Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:21:23)
Thus, when the Lord returns, He'll be bringing the souls of the dead Saints with Him and He'll be coming for the living Saints. Then, the great transforming of mortal bodies into immortal will take place (See I Corinthians 15:51-53; Philippians 3:20,21).
Matthew 13:39-41 says at His coming He will send angels to gather the wicked and Matthew 24:31 also says when He comes He will with the sound of a great trumpet send forth His angels to gather His elect (Christians) from all parts of the world.
These holding to the false doctrine of the Secret Rapture point to the statement about one being taken and the other left (Matthew 24:40,41; & Luke 17:34,35) as justification for their teaching. But, the word translated "taken" (Greek - PARALAMBANO), in each of these is the same word which is used in John 14:3, "I will come again and receive myself." These verses may only say that of people who live and work together here, one will be received by the Lord and the other left out when Jesus comes again for His own. Just as people were involved in normal activities (eating, weddings, etc.) prior to Noah’s flood - it shall be prior to Jesus’ coming (no one shall suspect it). See Matthew 24:36-39!
As we study the Word of God, may we realize that when Jesus comes again, He will come as a thief in the night, or unexpected (II Peter 3:10). Also that there will not be a secret rapture of His Saints but a universal recognizing Him as Lord of Lords. May the Lord help us to be careful of the many theories that man promotes as though the Bible teaches it in very plain language.
Now, the important question that each of us must answer is - ARE WE READY TO MEET JESUS WHEN HE COMES? The question is not if our spouse is ready, our children, our parents, or neighbors - but are we as an individual ready to meet our Maker.
Plainly, don’t get short changed. Let’s be ready to meet our Maker. The Bible teaches that to avoid hell and gain heaven - one must:
1) Believe In Jesus As Savior (Acts 16:31)
2) Repent Of Sins (Acts 17:30)
3) Confess Christ Audibly (Acts 8:37)
4) Be Baptized In Water (Acts 2:38)
5) Live A Christian Life (Acts 14:22)
6) Be Active In the Church (Acts 2:47)
When one obeys the Lord in becoming a Christian, He adds him/her to His Church (His "Called Out Followers"). See Acts 2:47; I Corinthians 1:9. Therefore, one needs to identify with a local congregation of Bible studying and dedicated believers. One needs to do this so that a person may be nourished spiritually and can share in opportunities to use various God-given talents to serve the Lord. The local church is to be a "Lighthouse" in the community. It is in need of one's abilities and support as much as a person is in need of the church. May each of us be understanding that it is only by God's grace that anyone can be forgiven of sins and have the opportunity for heaven.