The Bible makes it very clear that when Jesus returns "they will see Him in the air" and it will be at the end of the tribulation.
There is a great deal of symbolism and metaphor used throughout the Bible. One must be careful not to get lost in "literal interpretations" that can lead you down the path of self-righteous foolishness. The universe, after all, was not literally created in seven days....or even 7,000 years for those who extend unreasonably limited latitude in their human judgments.
"The Book" is written as part of establishing God's authorship of human history. Prophecy is one of the most profound ways God proves His authorship as only the Author can know the next chapter before it unfolds. The New Testament was particularly grounded in explaining how Old Testament prophecy about the coming Jewish messiah was fulfilled by Jesus.
Now why would God create this story in which we currently dwell? I would suggest the plot is to express His meaning to His creatures. In this sense, John's passage that 'Jesus is the Word of God' is poignant.
A word is used for the purpose of expressing meaning. In essence, this is what Jesus represented IMHO....a created persona to express God's meaning to this world.
With regard to the "second coming", this is the next critical chapter in God's Book. Thus, the fulfillment of prophecies pertaining to the Apocalypse and the associated realization of the Kingdom of God is proof to this world of God's authorship.
What has been impressed upon me is that man's deviation from God's will has served His creative purposes. Over the past 2,000 years global society has developed and, particularly during the last 200 years, this has been driven by the rise of secular reasoning in opposition to religious faith. This DEVIation in the thinking of creatures from belief in their Creator has been the engine of creative change. What's more, this process has been driven by popular servitude to Mammon (collective pursuit of material wealth) rather than God. The result has been the generation of the physical basis and technical knowhow for actually establishing a harmonious global society, i.e., the Kingdom of God. In this sense, man was designed by God to go against God for God to achieve His objective for this world.
However, in going against "The Truth", which is essentially "make believe" and engenders tremendous imagination and creativity, the inevitable consequence has been the development of extraordinary popular delusions doomed to be corrected by reality. This correction ultimately will take the form of "The Apocalypse", i.e., the revelation of the truth....the revelation of God. The Great Tribulation of The Apocalypse entails the painful collective consequences caused by man going against God's will as spelled out in His Book and expressed by the Word of Jesus. If people fail to love God and love their fellow human beings, ultimately this results in a catastrophic self-destructive outcome. Of course, God, being our Author, recognizes this from the beginning.
But is God sadistic?
The Old Testament notion of God would suggest so.
After all, if God created man to be erroneous and then man is eternally punished for his erroneous ways then God is seemingly sadistic.
The New Testament notion of God corrects this view in that God becomes a creature to suffer the punishment for the sins of His creatures....an ultimate expression of love. Furthermore, I believe this act is necessary to establish justice. The creation could not proceed if it were not for the errant ways of God's creatures. Sinfulness and creativity go hand-in-hand and hence man's propensity to sin furthers God's creation. So if man is designed to sin, and is subject to God's judgment for sinning, then, to be fair, God should subject himself to such judgment if His creatures are fulfilling His plan for creation through their inevitable, prophetically predicted sinfulness.
What's more, at the end of the age, when all the bits and pieces have come together for establishing the Kingdom of God through man's 2,000 years of sinful pursuits, then God should return to this world for the difficult conclusion to the historic work. But his return should not be to violently punish man for his predictable wrongdoings, since, after all, this served the purpose of God's creation. Rather, he should return to suffer the negative consequences of sinfulness with his errant creatures who laid the groundwork for his Kingdom. This, after all, would express a loving, just God as opposed to a sadistic, unfair one. If the latter is your preference, look to the Kremlin for god's kingdom. If the former seems right, I believe that's why I'm here.