There have been a number of theories that have attempted to explain when Jesus returns. One popular theory is that He would come for His Church in a secret rapture before the period known as the Tribulation - also known as the Pre-Trib rapture theory. But there are some very clear passages in Scripture that indicate this is not the case. Note the following accounts from 3 of the 4 gospel accounts that describe the circumstances surrounding His coming:

  • It will be visible.

"For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man".  - Matt 24:27

"At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other." - Matt 24:30-31

"At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And He will send out the angels to gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven." Mark 13:26

"At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" Luke 21:27

  • It will occur after the tribulation.

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days" - Matt 24:29

"But in those days, after that tribulation" - Mark 13:24

  • It will be accompanied by specific signs.

‘The sun will be darkened,
     and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
     and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.’
- Matt 24:29, Mark 13:24-25

"There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars" - Luke 21:25

 "they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" - Luke 21:27

The Revelation to John is a fairly straight forward description of the final days of this age. Very basically, this book lays out a sequence of events that are encapsulated in 3 sets of 7 events:

7 Seals --> 7 Trumpets --> 7 Bowls

Within this framework, there are a number of chapter inserts that interupt the normal flow of events. These insertions give greater detail about a variety of things. I won't go into their detail here. But very basically, the 7 seals release conditions on the earth that form a context for a period known as the tribulation.

1st Seal -> Conquering 
2nd Seal -> Removal of peace
3rd Seal -> Scarcity
4th Seal -> Death
5th Seal -> Persecution
6th Seal -> Heavenly Signs
7th Seal -> Introduces the 7 Trumpets (wrath of God)

In terms of this general framework of 3 sets of 7, the first 7 define a period of trouble (tribulation) on the earth. The two final sets of sevens (Trumpets and Bowls) form what is referred to as the "wrath of God" (Rev 6:17). This wrath is directed at those that rebel against God. It does not make sense for God to include His elect as objects of His divine wrath. Scripture confirms this.

"For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath" - 1 Thes 5:9

So getting back to the timing of His coming and the gathering of His elect described in the gospel accounts. We know it will be visible. It will occur after the tribulation. And it will be accompanied by specific signs.

Now where might we find these three considerations fulfilled in the Revelation chronology? I believe we can see this after the tribulation, but before the wrath of God.

Note the following events and descriptions in the Sixth Seal:

And when I saw the Lamb open the sixth seal, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black like sackcloth of goat hair, and the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth like unripe figs dropping from a tree shaken by a great wind. The sky receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place.

Then the kings of the earth, the nobles, the commanders, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and free man hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they said to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of Their wrath has come, and who is able to withstand it?”

Rev 6:12-17

The similarities between this account in Revelation, and those within the gospel accounts are striking.