Looking back over the last 2,000 years, we realize that Jesus did not return as soon as the apostles had hoped. Even back in their day, there were those who were beginning to doubt that Jesus would ever return in light of how long it had been since His departure. As Peter’s earthly life drew to a close, for example (see 2 Pet. 1:13-14), Jesus still had not come back, and so Peter addressed those with doubting thoughts in his final letter:
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up (2 Pet. 3:3-10).
Peter affirmed that Jesus’ delay was due to His love and mercy—He wants to give more time for people to repent. But He also affirmed that there was absolutely no doubt Jesus would return. When He does, He will come in great wrath.
Scripture is also very clear, as we will see, that Christ’s wrathful return will be preceded by years of unprecedented worldwide tribulation and the pouring out of God’s wrath upon the wicked. Much of the subject matter of the book of Revelation covers that future period of time. As we will see later in our study, Scripture indicates that there will be seven years of future tribulation. There is no doubt that the Rapture of the church takes place at some point within or near those seven years.