by John C. Whitcomb, Th.D
The Biblical answer to this burning question is—yes and no! Yes, He could return from heaven at any moment now to meet His true church—His body and bride—in the air. And, therefore, no—He will not come down to the earth during the next 12 months. His return to the earth will occur seven years after the church has been caught up to heaven.
Why does the Bible make this distinction? Because the second coming of our Lord, just like His first coming, is a complex series of events covering a number of years. Think for a moment of the first coming. It began with the miraculous conception of the God/man in the womb of a Jewish woman about 4 B.C. Then came His birth, growth, public ministry, death, burial, resurrection and ascension back to heaven—requiring more than a third of a century.
So also, the second coming of Christ will cover a number of years, beginning with the resurrection of dead Christians and the rapture of living Christians (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Then, for the church, there will be a period of examination by her Bridegroom to determine gain or loss of rewards (1 Cor. 3:5-15), culminating in “the marriage of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:7-9, KJV).