Every year, our Easter celebrations rightfully focus on Jesus, God the Son who died on the cross on Good Friday and rose again on Easter Sunday. We will inevitably sing great songs of praise like “Halleluiah what a Savior.” But I don’t want us to forget that Good Friday and Easter were a Trinitarian effort. We must remember that both the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus were events planned by God the Father in eternity past, so that we can also say that God the Father is our Savior. We rightfully think of Jesus as being our Savior, but six times in the New Testament, God the Father is also called “our Savior” (1 Tim 1:1, 2:3, 4:10, Titus 1:3, 2:10, 3:4). This shouldn’t surprise us since God is known as Israel’s Savior over thirty times in the Old Testament (Ps 106:21). This is the nature of God. He is a saving God! And the Easter story reveals the Father’s saving work in orchestrating all the details so that both Good Friday and Easter happened.
Good Friday: God Put Forward In Romans 3:24-25 the Apostle Paul says that sinners are “justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood.” Don’t miss the fact that it was God who made the cross happen. Yes, it is true that Jesus was crucified by evil men. But it was God the Father who “put forward” His Son. This is also confirmed by the Apostle Peter in Acts 2:23, when he says that Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” Understand that Good Friday was God’s plan for making sure there was a sacrifice worthy to satisfy His own wrath against sin. This is seen in the word “propitiation.” This word means to satisfy, like one whose debt has been fully paid. Why did God put forth His Son to be killed and have His blood spilled? God knew that it was only the blood of His spotless Son who could “propitiate” or satisfy His own wrath toward sinners. God the Father, sent His own Son into the world (Jn 3:16), to pay the debt that sin had created and to satisfy His own holy wrath against sin. Oh, what a Savior!
Easter: God Raised Up But not only was the cross on Good Friday orchestrated by God the Father, the resurrection on Easter Sunday was as well. Who raised up Jesus who had been in the grave for “three days and three nights” (Matt 12:40)? The Apostle Peter answers this question clearly in Acts 2:24 when he says, “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (See also Acts 3:15, 1 Cor 6:14, Eph 1:20, Romans 8:11, 2 Cor 4:14). The resurrection of Jesus was God’s doing. It was God’s way of putting His stamp of approval on the sacrifice that Jesus had made. It was God’s way of telling the world that truly He was a Savior, a Savior from sin, death, and Satan. The resurrection of Jesus proves that death had been destroyed, Satan had been conquered, and sin’s penalty had been fully paid (Heb 2:14, 1 Cor 15:55, Col 2:15).
So this year when we reflect on Good Friday and celebrate on Easter, let’s not forget this fundamental truth that while Jesus is our Savior, so is God the Father. It was God the Father who planned our salvation and acted to ensure that Jesus was put forward and raised from the dead.
As we close, we would be amiss if we forgot the Holy Spirit who is also active in our salvation. While it was the Father who planned it all, and the Son who accomplished it on the cross, it is God the Holy Spirit who applies salvation to our hearts. The Apostle Paul gloriously reveals this Trinitarian effort in our salvation clearly in Ephesians 1:3-14. Our salvation was a Trinitarian effort, so that we can say emphatically that the entire God-head is our Savior! Oh, what a Savior!
Who is Jesus? This is one of the most important questions of all time. It was the very question that the whole city of Jerusalem was asking on that first Palm Sunday when Jesus entered into the city riding on a donkey. As Jesus entered the city, thousands of Jews were spreading their cloaks on the road and waving palm branches. Matthew records this story of Christ’s final entry, His “Triumphant Entry” into the city of Jerusalem. While many through the ages have wrongly understood who Jesus really is, this story makes it very clear, giving us five glorious truths teaching us who Jesus really is (Matthew 21:1-11).
Willing Servant First, Jesus is the willing servant who went up to Jerusalem. Palm Sunday was the first day of the last week of Jesus’ life. After completing an amazing ministry of healing, and miracles and teaching, Jesus willingly “drew near to Jerusalem.” It was the time of the Passover, and multitudes of Jews were in the city ready to make their yearly sacrifice to fulfill the Mosaic requirement (Ex 12:2-6). It is possible that the day Jesus entered into Jerusalem, Jews took lambs into their own homes in preparation. And now Jesus, the one true Lamb of God enters the city. Jesus had already told His disciples what the ultimate plan was. He told them no less than three times, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day” (Matt 20:18-19, see also 16:21, 17:22-23). Jesus knew exactly that when He entered the city, He was entering it for the sole purpose of becoming a sacrificial lamb. No one forced Jesus, but He willingly went as God’s suffering servant (Is 53).
Sovereign Lord Second, Jesus is the sovereign and all-knowing Lord who fulfilled prophecy. The story that Matthew gives reveals that Jesus was not a victim but rather in total control. Jesus doesn’t fall into the hands of an angry mob, nor does he fall prey to a political or religious fiasco. But rather He controls all of the details of His entrance into Jerusalem for the purpose of going to the cross. He tells His disciples exactly where to go to find a donkey for Him to ride thereby fulfilling the Scriptural prediction made 500 years earlier (Zech 9:9). This was the sovereign plan of God that Jesus would reveal Himself as a gentle servant. Nothing could have been more appropriate than the bearer of the world’s sin burden to ride into Jerusalem on a lowly beast of burden. When Jesus returns a second time He will not be riding a gentle donkey, but rather a white stallion to bring judgment (Rev 19:11-16).
Worthy Master Third, Jesus is the worthy Master who is obeyed by those who love Him. When Jesus instructed the disciples, they were quick to obey. What we learn is that all who truly follow Jesus know Him as a worthy master and that attitude is evidenced by obedience. When Jesus gave instructions, the disciples “went and did as Jesus had directed them” (v. 6-7). Jesus had proven that He was worthy to be obeyed. The crowds didn’t know who Jesus was, but the disciples knew! And they expressed that knowledge in practical obedience. It is repulsive to think that we would be asked to obey an unworthy master, who is harsh and unrighteous. But disciples of Jesus have no problem obeying Him, because they know that He is the only worthy one (Rev 5). This should be the true heart of every disciple (Jn 14:15, 21, 24).
Blessed Savior Fourth, Jesus is the blessed Savior who deserves all praise. The crowds rightly gave Jesus the praise that He was due. When Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, the crowds began to spread their garments on the ground. This was an ancient custom which symbolized respect and submission to authority (2 Kings 9:13). The crowds also waved palm branches (Jn 12:13), which was symbolic of salvation and joy. Furthermore, the crowds seemingly with one voice cried out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” This was a salvation chant filled with expectation. Hosanna is an exclamatory plea which means “save now.” It is clear that the crowds thought of Jesus as a messiah or deliverer from the physical hands of the wicked Romans. But they clearly misunderstood like so many today. The mission of Jesus was not to deliver man from his physical problems! Jesus came to deliver His people from spiritual oppression and the consequences of sin. As a result, He is truly the one who deserves all our praise.
Heavenly King Last, Jesus is the heavenly King who many will never recognize. After Jesus entered into the city, the whole city was stirred up and they were saying “Who is this?” Many of them simply said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee” (v. 10-11). They totally ignored what was being chanted about Him, that He was the “Son of David,” that is the messiah that God had sent (Is 11:1). They only thought of Jesus as a prophet or a messenger. While they heard the message and saw the miracles of Jesus, they refused to believe and ultimately rejected Jesus as Savior and Lord. Jesus was more than an earthly King. He was the heavenly King sent to earth by God to conquer sin and death.
“Who is this man?” That is the ultimate question that every person has to answer. It is not a question to be ignored! How someone answers this question will determine their eternal destiny. Jesus is not merely a good and wise teacher, who loved well and ultimately experienced a tragic unfortunate death. No, rather He is the sovereign King of the universe who came to earth to willingly go to Jerusalem and be killed as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world and establish a heavenly Kingdom. Our hope at Ebenezer BFC is that every person who comes through our doors will come find the answer to this question and be able to declare that Jesus is both Lord and Savior!
One of the most profound statements that Jesus Christ ever made was in the Garden of Gethsemane when death on the cross was immediately before Him. He prayed to His heavenly Father, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 12:42). Jesus determined to always do His Father’s will (Jn 6:38) and set an example for all who would follow Him. As followers of Jesus, we also should determine to do God’s will. Having no desire to do God’s will is the mark of an unbeliever (Rom 8:5-8). But herein lies the problem. Sometimes God’s will is difficult to determine. How do we discover God’s will in order to do it?
First and foremost, there are clear instructions or decrees in God’s Word revealing God’s clear will. This will of God is evidenced in His Law, commands, and exhortations. And to make it even more clear there are several places in Scripture where the phrase, “this is the will of God” is stated emphatically (Eph 5:17-18, 1 Thess 4:3, 5:18, 1 Pet 4:19). We call these commands the decreed will of God. From these passages we can determine that being saved, being sexual pure, suffering for Christ, and being thankful for all things, are some of the clear examples of God’s will for our lives. Failing to obey these commands is evidence that we are clearly outside of God’s will.
But there are other times when knowing God’s will is not as clear. How should we proceed? What would be the process that one would take in order to determine God’s will concerning less clear & subjective decisions, like which job to take, or where to go, or who to date? Acts 11:1-18 serves as a great case study on divine guidance. In this particular passage the Apostle Peter explains how God’s will was made known to him, that he was to preach the Gospel to a family of Gentiles (Acts 10). God provided divine guidance to help Peter readjust his thinking to understand that salvation was not just for Jews but also for Gentiles. He explained to those who criticized him for preaching to Gentiles, the exact “order” in which God revealed His will to him (11:4). Looking closely at Peter’s explanation, we can discover six principles in determining God’s will.
First, Peter engaged in prayer (v. 5). Peter did not assume to know God’s perfect will, but humbly sought-after God. This must be the beginning point for every believer. We must have a desire to not only discover but obey God’s will. Why would God reveal His will to someone who has no desire to obey it? Prayer displays the hungry heart of a true believer desiring to hear clear directions from God.
Second, God gave Peter His word, in this case through a vision (v. 5b-10). This vision clearly explained the heart of God, changing Peter’s mind and gave him clarity as to God’s will. It should be noted that visions are not normative for today in the Church age, and we should not expect God to speak to us in visions. However, what is clear is the Word of God given to sufficiently and clearly guide God’s people. The Bible provides multitudes of both direct and indirect teaching that provides principles for living a life that honors and pleases the Lord.
Third, Peter recognized God’s providential workings (v. 11-12). Immediately following the vision, three men showed up at his doorstep confirming what God had said in the vision. Timing like that only proves that God rules this world so that nothing is accidental. When discerning the will of God, it is important to note how God is providentially working out details in our lives. We must remember that God is working “all things together for good” for those who love Him (Rom 8:28). It is this providential working of God that may confirm what we have already discovered in our prayer and bible study times in how God is leading.
Fourth, the details of Peter’s situation were confirmed by several other witnesses (v. 12). Confirmation by others is a valuable thing when we are talking about discerning the subjective will of God (not the decreed will of God as described above). It is important for believers to seek godly counsel. While thoughts and desires are often subjective, it is best if they can be wisely affirmed by godly counsel (Prov 12:15, 19:20).
Fifth, Peter saw that God prepared circumstances to fall into place, the ground had been tilled (v. 13-14). This is similar to the third principle, but should be noted again. If it is God’s will to do something, He will have provided the necessary things for it to happen. God’s purpose for your life will be accompanied with “open doors.” Caution must also be warned here as well. Difficulty is not always an indication that something is not God’s will. It is clear from Scripture that God’s will is not always accompanied with smooth roads.
Sixth, Peter saw the fruitfulness of his decisions (v. 15-16). God blessed His word and confirmed that Peter had discerned rightly. When we follow God’s will obediently we can expect God to bless. We must remember however, that what we deem as blessing and what God deems as blessing may be two different things. Furthermore, God doesn’t always promise that obeying Him will result in prosperity, but may indeed result in suffering.
The most important principles of this process are certainly the first two Christian disciplines of prayer and bible study. All of the other principles can be applied only after the follower of Christ has saturated his life with the Word of God (Colossians 3:16) and faithfully sought the Lord in prayer. And when a believer has devoted himself to living a life of full obedience to the clear decrees of God’s Word, then the Holy Spirit will have free reign to guide his heart (Prov 16:3, Ps 37:4).
Some have argued that the Bible never speaks about a “rapture.” That is a reasonable concern considering that the word rapture is not found in the Bible. So where does this concept then come from, and is this a real teaching or simply the product of someone’s imagination? (It should be noted that the word Trinity is not found in the Bible and yet it is very clear from Scripture that there is only one God who manifests Himself in three persons, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.). Let’s answer several important questions about this concept known as the rapture.
Where is the rapture found in the Bible? Does the Bible teach that the Church is going to be raptured out? There are three main rapture passages that describe the “catching away” of the church: John 14:1-3, 1 Corinthians 15:50-57, and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. In John 14:3, Jesus only briefly introduced the concept telling his troubled disciples that He was leaving them, but also promised, “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” The Apostle Paul explains the mystery of this rapture more fully in Corinthians and Thessalonians. A mystery is not a puzzle or something difficult to figure out, but rather truth that was not made known in previous generations but has now been revealed (Eph 3:9). In Corinthians, Paul says, “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” In the Thessalonian passage, Paul teaches us that believers who are alive before the coming of the Lord will be “caught up” together with the dead in Christ who will be raised, and we will all go immediately to be “with the Lord in the air.”
What actually is the rapture? In the fourth century Jerome translated the Greek New Testament into Latin, consequently, translating the Greek word harpazo in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 into the word raeptius. The Latin word rapio means “to seize, snatch or seize away or to take suddenly and vehemently.” This word made its way into the English language as “rapture.” This word appears 13 times in the New Testament (Matt 11:12, 13:19, Jn 6:15, 10:12, 28, 29, Acts 8:39, 23:10, 2 Cor 12:2, 4, 1 Thess 4:17, Jude 1:23, Rev 12:5). A brief survey of these verses reveal that this word is often used to describe the “snatching up” or “catching up” of people to different places. In Acts 8, Philip was “snatched” away and carried from one place to another. In 2 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul was “caught up” into heaven. Revelation 12:5 speaks of Jesus being caught up to heaven (Acts 1:9-11). So then, the rapture is a description of the Church being “caught up or snatched away” from this world and carried to another location, namely heaven, with Jesus in the air.
Is the rapture the same thing as the second coming of Christ? At this point a distinction has to be made between the rapture and the second coming of Christ. When the two events are closely analyzed, there are clear evidences in Scripture that teach that the rapture and the second coming of Christ are two separate events. Consider the following chart and analysis.
Some have concluded that the second coming of Christ comes in two stages. The first stage of Christ’s coming is the rapture where Christ doesn’t come to the earth, but in the air to snatch His bride, the Church, from the world. The second stage of Christ’s coming comes at the end of the Tribulation when Jesus comes directly to the earth with His bride to bring judgment on the earth, defeating the Antichrist at Armageddon to set up His millennial kingdom on the earth.
Who will participate in the rapture? Only believers in Christ who lived during the Church age will participate in the rapture. Thessalonians is clear that the dead “in Christ” will be raised first and then those who are alive will be caught up together with them in the air. The “dead in Christ” are Believers who have already died. In this sentence, the assumption is that the reference to “those who are alive” means, “those who are alive in Christ,” meaning believers who are still living. To be “in Christ” is a description of New Covenant believers, or the Church. No one prior to Pentecost was considered to be “in Christ” or baptized “in Christ.” Therefore, the participants of the rapture will only be people known as church-age believers (both dead and alive), consisting of both Jew and Gentile believers. The logical conclusion then is that the rapture will end this particular church age, and be the start of the Tribulation.
So, what happens to Old Testament believers, or those who were saved prior to Jesus coming? There are two passages in the Old Testament that indicate that Old Covenant saints will be raised in conjunction with the actual second coming of Christ to the earth (Isaiah 26:16-19, Daniel 12:1-3, Rev 20:4-6). Unlike church-age believers who will receive glorified bodies at the rapture prior to the Tribulation, Old Testament believers and Tribulation believers who died (or martyred) will not receive their glorified bodies until their resurrection at the end of the Great Tribulation before the Millennial Kingdom is established on the earth by Christ Himself.
How long will the rapture take? According to 1 Corinthians 15:52, the rapture will take place “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” The word “moment” is the word atomos in the Greek. It is the word from which we get the word atom, the smallest unit of matter which is indivisible. The word implies the smallest unit of time. In other words, this rapture will take place in an indivisible moment, or “in an instant” or “in a split second.” Furthermore, Paul says this will happen in the “twinkling of an eye.” The rapture will be something that takes place instantaneously, or in a flash. It will not be observable by the human eye. Immediately the dead in Christ will be raised and we who are in Christ and alive will instantaneously be caught up with Jesus and carried into heaven.
When will the rapture take place? This is one of the most debatable discussions in current day prophecy. There are three major views (some minor views as well) about when the rapture will take place: a pre-tribulation rapture, a mid-tribulation rapture, and a post-tribulation rapture. The pre-Trib position believes that the Church will be raptured out prior to the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation. The mid-Trib position believes that the church will be raptured out at the midway point of the Tribulation, prior to the great wrath that will come during the second half of the Tribulation. The post-Trib position believes that the rapture and the second coming of Christ are one event that happens at the end of the Tribulation, with the consequence that the Church will go through the outpouring of God’s wrath on the earth.
While each of these positions have their strengths and weaknesses, the pre-tribulation rapture position seems to have the most compelling and Scripture support. Following are nine reasons for believing that the pre-Trib rapture position is the most supported by Scripture.
1.The Tribulation period concerns the nation of Israel (Jer 30:7, Daniel 9:24, 12:7). Three significant passages in the Old Testament give strong evidence that the Tribulation is a time for Israel. Jeremiah states that a day is coming that is greater than any before, and that “it is a time of distress for Jacob; yet he shall be saved out of it.” Jacob is the Father of Israel and his name was actually changed to Israel (Genesis 32:28); thus, this time of distress is for Israel, but they will be saved out of it (Romans 11:26). Furthermore, Daniel the prophet writes about the 70 weeks of prophecy, stating that these seventy weeks are “decreed about your people and your holy city…” (9:24). Daniel’s people were the Israelites and none other. At the end of Daniel’s prophecy, he writes another astonishing statement. Daniel says that the “time, times and half a time” will be for “the shattering of the power of the holy people” (12:7). All of this makes sense when the promise of Revelation 3:10 reveals that the “hour of trial that is coming on the whole world” is for the purpose “to try those who dwell on the earth.” The “earth dwellers” in the book of Revelation are clearly unbelievers. This description is found eleven times in nine verses in Revelation (3:10, 6:10, 8:13, 11:10 [twice]; 13:8, 12, 14 [twice] 17:2, 8). A close examination of these passages reveals that “earth dwellers” are unsaved people who, during the Tribulation, stubbornly and steadfastly continue in their rejection of God. The Tribulation will serve the purpose of trying the world, and the nation of Israel who will believe and be saved out of the Tribulation. Since the Church already believes in Jesus, there is no purpose for the Church to go through the Tribulation.
2.There is no biblical reference to the church on the earth in Revelation chapters 4-19. The Church is glaringly missing in the main section of Revelation that teaches the details of the Tribulation. It shouldn’t surprise us that the term ecclesia (church) is used 19 times in chapters 1-3, while it is never used in the following chapters. There are also other indications scattered throughout the book. For example, Chapter 4 describes a vision before the throne of God which is clearly in heaven, and not on the earth. John sees around the throne twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. He also sees “before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God…” These are certainly references to the redeemed who are singing the song of redemption (Rev 5:8-10), the overcomers who have their crowns and live in the place prepared for them. Since at that point Israel hadn’t been saved, this is certainly a description of the Church who is in heaven being rewarded (see Rev 1:20). In chapter 13:9, John uses a phrase “if anyone has an ear, let him hear.” That phrase is used in chapters 1-3 repeatedly to each of the seven churches with an additional qualification, “…what the Spirit says to the churches.” But in chapter 13:9, this phrase is blatantly missing most likely because the Church is nowhere to be found in chapter 13. The omission of the Church throughout Revelation 4-19 is a compelling argument that the Church will have been raptured prior to the Tribulation.
3.The Church is promised exemption from divine wrath (1 Thess 1:9-10, 5:9, Romans 5:9, Rev 3:10, 6:16-17, Eph 2:3-5). The Church is promised to be spared from God’s wrath. It is clear that the Tribulation is actually the very wrath of God (see Rev 6:16-17, 11:18, 15:1, 7, 16:19). For sure the Church will not be spared from trials (Jn 16:33), man’s wrath (2 Tim 3:12), Satan’s wrath (Eph 6:11-12), and the world’s wrath (Jn 15:18-19). But Christ has already taken God’s wrath for believers. The wrath of the Tribulation will be poured out on unbelievers (Rev 3:10).
4.The doctrine of Imminency requires a pre-Trib rapture. The Rapture could happen at any moment (1 Cor 1:7, 16:22, Phil 3:20, 4:5, 1 Thess 1:10, Titus 2:13, Heb 9:28, James 5:7-9, 1 Peter 1:13, Jud 1:21, Rev 3:11, 22:7, 12, 20, Rev 22:17, 20). It is important to remember that the rapture is a sign-less and imminent event that cannot be discerned, whereas the second coming of Christ to the earth is preceded by many signs that are very observable (Matt 24). All other views (mid-Trib, & post-Trib) fall short on this point. Only the pre-Trib view can fittingly say that the return of Jesus is imminent.
5.The Rapture is designed to be a comfort for the believing Church (1 Thess 4:18). The introduction of the rapture by Jesus in John 14:1-3, was intended to be a comfort for the troubling hearts of His disciples. Further Paul says that his teaching of the rapture in 1 Thess 4:18 was to be a “comfort.” It would definitely not be a comfort to the Church to know that the rapture would come after many would experience having their heads cut off by the antichrist, or firsthand experience of the wrath of God. Having the rapture appear after all of the trouble that comes on the earth would not be a comfort to anyone! Only the pre-Trib rapture view provides the comfort for the Church that it was intended to do.
6. The Antichrist cannot come to power until the church’s restraining influence is removed (2 Thess 2:6-7). The Apostle Paul tells us something very important, namely that the Antichrist is being restrained from appearing on the earth. Paul says, “And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed.” The Tribulation will be initiated not by the rapture, but by a peace treaty that the Antichrist signs with unbelieving Israel (Daniel 9:27). Once that treaty is signed the countdown begins. Paul says that the lawless one (the Antichrist) cannot be revealed until the restrainer is “out of the way.” Since the Antichrist has the very power of Satan (2:9), this restrainer has to be the omnipotent God. No one else would be powerful enough to restrain Satan. For this reason, it is believed that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit. It is clear that the Holy Spirit is omnipresent and working in the world (Jn 16:8). But since the Holy Spirit mainly indwells true believers (Jn 14:16, Rom 8:9), the removal of this restrainer may very well include the removal of the Church. God is holding back the coming of the Antichrist because the Church is still present in the world. Once the Church is removed at the beginning of the Tribulation, the Antichrist will then be “able” to come on the scene. Being Satan incarnate, the Antichrist will then be able to fulfill his lawless acts of hate and violence on the earth.
7. There are clear differences between the rapture of the Church and the return of Christ. At the rapture, Christ will return in the air and come for His church to escort her to the Father’s house (1 Thess 4:16, Jn 14:1-3), while at His second coming He will come to the earth with His saints when He descends from heaven to judge His enemies and establish His glorious one-thousand-year Kingdom on Earth (Zech 14:4-5, 1 Thess 3:13). See the above chart for many other differences making it clear that the coming of Christ for His church (rapture) is a different event from the return of Christ to the earth.
8. Time Gap between the Rapture and the Second Coming. The Rapture and Second Coming must be two separate events and cannot be simultaneous, but must have a gap between them in order to fulfill 4 specific prophecies that must also take place. Each of the following prophecies of necessity require time to which the Pre-Trib rapture position seems to provide. 1) The Judgment seat of Christ must take place where all church-age believers must appear (2 Cor 5:9). Interestingly, the detailed accounts of the second coming of Christ in Rev 19:11-21 don’t mention this judgment. The implication is that this bema (transliterated word for judgment seat) seat judgment for believers will happen in heaven and be completed before the second coming of Christ to the earth when Jesus brings His people with Him. 2) The preparation of Christ’s bride must take place in heaven prior to returning to earth with Christ (Rev 19:7-18). 3) There will clearly be mortal bodied people living on the earth during the Millennial Kingdom (Is 65:20-25) who will carry on normal activities such as farming, building houses, and bearing children. Since this is true, tribulation saints (those who become believers in Christ during the tribulation) must maintain those bodies and not be raptured out after the Tribulation. If every person who became a believer during the Tribulation was raptured out at the end of the Tribulation, there would be no “mortal” bodied people living on the earth to necessarily populate the earth during the Millennial Kingdom. 4) The Post-Tribulation judgment of both Sheep and Goats (Matt 25:31-46) infers that there will be both believers and unbelievers alive on the earth at Christ’s second coming. This is important, because if the rapture is a post-tribulation rapture, then, of necessity, all Tribulation saints would have been raptured and there would be no “tribulation sheep” left to appear before this judgment. All of these prophecies give strong evidence that the rapture must be a pre-Trib rapture in order to give time for the prophecies to be fulfilled.
9.Symbolic parallels demand that the rapture must take place before the tribulation. Jesus’ teaching on His second coming to the earth is taught in Luke 17:26-30. The paradigm that Jesus draws upon are two events that include judgment, namely Noah and the flood, and Lot and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone. These two events have one significant thing in common. In each case the righteous man was first removed from harm’s way before God poured out His wrath and judgment. In the case of righteous Lot (Gen 19:22, 2 Pet 2:5-8), the angel told Lot that he could do “nothing” until Lot was safely away in a city called Zoar. In the same way, God did not begin to bring rain down on the earth until Noah and his family were safely (1 Peter 3:20) in the ark. Enoch was also raptured out or taken out of the earth before the flood (Gen 5:24). God is very good at rescuing the righteous and keeping the ungodly under judgment. God has a history of taking his people out of harm’s way. The pre-Trib rapture certainly fits God’s paradigm perfectly. Certainly, there have been many believers who have experienced horrible deaths throughout history. But it doesn’t seem logical that God would allow the entire bride of Christ to experience the wrath of God alongside unbelievers on the earth during the Great Tribulation.
References: Mark Hitchcock, The End (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2012), 145-176. John MacArthur, Revelation, Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999) Dr. Andy Woods, 7 Reasons to Trust the Pre-Trib Rapture, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZBoSaG4-KY