How do I share the Gospel with those who focus on “hypocritical Christians”?

When sharing the gospel with non-Christians, we may encounter those who focus on the hypocrisy of Christians as a reason not to hear or believe the gospel. They may claim to know Christians whose lives are no different than non-Christians or even worse. Perhaps you have met someone who was quick to point out that televangelists preach God’s Word on TV but fail to live it out in their personal lives. Some non-Christians have referred to people who have done horrendous things in the name of Christ such as the Spanish Inquisition and The Crusaders. Even Adolph Hitler claimed to serve God by persecuting the Jewish people because they had crucified Christ. An unbeliever may say, “I want nothing to do with Christianity because I see too many Christians who are some of the most angry, greedy, immoral, and selfish people I have ever known!”

How do we respond to non-Christians whose focus is on the hypocrisy of Christians? There are several things to consider:

1. Explain to them that not all people are Christians who say they are Christians. The Bible emphasizes that eternal life is a free gift (John 4:10-14; Rom. 6:23; Ephes. 2:8-9). A person does not receive eternal life by living a good life, keeping God’s commandments, going to church, praying every day, or being baptized with water. The Bible tells us that a person must come to God as a sinner (Rom. 3:23), realizing that Christ died for all his sins and rose from the dead (I Cor. 15:3-6), and then believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life (John 3:36; 6:40, 47; I Cor 15:3-6). The moment a person trusts in Christ alone to give them everlasting life, God not only gives him or her the free gift He paid for when He died on the cross – eternal life – He also comes to live inside of that person through His Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:11; Gal. 2:20; 3:2) to give them the power to live a life that pleases Him.

Many people who claim to be Christians do not understand this simple gospel message. Instead of trusting in Christ alone to get them to heaven, they are trusting in their good works or in Christ plus their good works to get them to heaven, and therefore, they do not have God’s power in them to live a life that pleases Him. Many non-Christians use their religion to try to cover up their sins. So it is important that the non-Christian understands that not all people who say they are Christians have God’s power in them to live a different life because they are not trusting in Christ alone to save them and give them everlasting life. Instead, they are depending on their good works or religious efforts to get them to heaven, instead of on Christ and His finished work on the cross alone. 

2. Inform them that Christians are also imperfect sinners who do not always live the way God wants them to live. The Bible tells us that when a person believes or trusts in Christ alone for everlasting life, he becomes a child of God forever. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). Just as children can disobey a father and lose their closeness with him, so God’s children can disobey Him and lose their closeness with God. And as an earthly father’s children remain his children no matter how they behave, so God’s children remain His children no matter what they do after they trust in Christ alone for their salvation (cf. 2 Tim. 2:13). But God is not pleased with them and He will lovingly discipline them if they continue in disobedience (Heb. 12:5-11).

It is unfortunate that the disobedience of God’s children can discourage non-Christians from wanting to learn more about Jesus Christ. Ask the non-Christian not to permit the ungodly lifestyles of Christians keep them from receiving the greatest message ever offered to humanity! It is essential that the non-Christian distinguish between the lifestyle of a Christian and the message of Christ.

3. Ask the non-Christian if there are any Christians they respect for the way they live. Most non-Christians know of believers in Christ who try to live consistent Christian lives, but they tend to focus on the few believers they know who live hypocritical lives. Like all of us, non-Christians can be inconsistent in their thinking. 

4. Confront the non-Christian with Christ’s invitation to believe or trust in Him alone on the basis of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, not the lifestyles of Christians. Christ is not inviting non-Christians to trust in Him alone for salvation on the basis of how Christians live or do not live their lives. Christians cannot save lost sinners from hell no matter how much they live for Christ. Only Christ can save sinners from hell because only He has paid the full penalty for the sins of the world through His death and resurrection (John 19:30; Rom. 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3-6). 

When Jesus was talking to a religious leader, named Nicodemus, who thought the way to heaven was by living a good life, Jesus confronted Nicodemus with his need to be born of God’s Spirit by believing in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life (John 3:1-16). Christ referred to Numbers 21:8 where God instructed Moses to lift up a bronze serpent so that all who were bitten by poisonous snakes and dying, could “look” at the serpent and “live” physically. Jesus explained their “look”as simply believing in Him:

14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). 

Just as the dying Israelites had to look at the bronze serpent lifted up on a pole, so all people who are dying in their sins must look in faith to Jesus Christ who was lifted up on a cross to die for their sins. Christ did not say to look at how Christians live so they can believe in Jesus. No, He says to look at the “Son of Man,” Jesus Christ, who was “lifted up”on the cross for them so they can believe in Him for the gift He paid for when He died in their place.  

The most important issue for the non-Christian to consider is not what Christians have done, but what Christ has done for them when He died on the cross and rose from the dead! Encourage the non-Christian not to let the Christians who disappoint them keep them from believing or trusting in Christ alone who will not disappoint them!

(Adapted from Larry Moyer’s, 1999 Dear God I’m Ticked Off, pp. 110-117). 

Is God ever Unfair?

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

When we face difficult times, we may doubt that God loves us. We may feel like He has abandoned us. We may accuse God of being unfair when He allows us to suffer. But please understand there was a time when God was unfair. It is when He sent His innocent Son to die in the place of guilty sinners. The Bible says,“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21).

The perfect Son of God was punished on the cross instead of guilty sinners. Was that fair to Jesus!?! Of course not. But thank God for His love and grace which sent His perfect Son to pay the debt for our sins that we could never pay – “the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (I Peter 3:18).

After all, the Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). All people have sinned against God and deserve to be punished for their sins forever in the Lake of Fire (Rom. 6:23; Rev. 20:15). But God loved us so much, He sent His perfect Son who never sinned to die in our place for our sins and then rise from the dead, proving that He is God (John 3:16; Romans 1:3-4; I Corinthians 15:3-6).

If you have never understood this before, God now invites you to “believe” or trust in Jesus alone to be made right with our holy God. “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5). The moment “ungodly” people believe in the innocent Son of God who died in their place for all their sins and rose from the dead, God declares them “righteous” before Him so He can accept them into His family forever! Believe in Jesus for His gift of eternal life and He will save you from hell forever and give you life that never ends (cf. John 11:25-26; Acts 16:31).

When you believe in Jesus, He comes to live inside of you through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11; Galatians 2:20). You can thank Him for saving you from hell forever by living for Him now: “and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

Do our Priorities reflect God’s?

“But to the tribe of Levi Moses had given no inheritance; the Lord God of Israel was their inheritance, as He had said to them.” Joshua 13:33

When Joshua prepared to divide the land of Canaan that they had already conquered among the tribes of Israel, he writes, “But to the tribe of Levi Moses had given no inheritance; the Lord God of Israel was their inheritance, as He had said to them” (13:33). The tribe of Levi would receive no specific land inheritance as did the other tribes because “The Lord…was their inheritance.” (cf. Num. 18:20). However, this did include the sacrifices or offerings for food (13:14), the priesthood (18:7), and the Lord Himself (13:33)! Could there be a greater inheritance than God!?!

As Christians, we can place a lot of emphasis on material possessions, including the purchasing of land or the building of buildings. Churches can preoccupy themselves with buying land on which to construct a building. While there is nothing inherently wrong with owning land or building a building, do we think we are lacking if we have no land or building to call our own? The truth is since we are believer-priests in Christ (I Pet. 2:9), the Lord is our inheritance and we are also His inheritance (cf. Rom. 8:17a; Ephes. 1:11, 14, 18). No amount of land or buildings can compare to Him! Jesus Christ is eternal and unchanging (cf. Heb. 13:8), but buildings and lands are changing and temporary. Natural catastrophes can wipe them out in an instant. While we cannot lose our relationship with Christ once we believe in Him (cf. John 3:16; 10:28-29; Heb. 13:5), we can lose land or buildings in a moment of time. In fact, the Bible tells us that in the future all earthly things will be destroyed by fire (cf. 2 Peter 3:10). 

Knowing this should cause us to invest more of our time, talents, and treasures in what is eternal, not that which is temporary (cf. Matt. 6:19-20). Our hearts will follow what we value“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). The more we invest in temporary material possessions, the more our hearts will focus on them. But the more we invest in the Lord and His work (Mark 16:15; Matt. 28:19-20), the more our hearts will focus on what is eternal.

For example, I have observed churches in America spend millions of dollars to purchase land and build buildings, and that becomes their primary focus because they are investing their treasures in those things. Their prayers, their meetings, their conversations, activities, and giving revolve around the purchasing of land and the building of buildings. There is no outreach or disciple-making taking place. However, I have also observed churches who invest the majority of their money in the Lord and His work. As a result, their hearts are more focused on the things of the Lord. Their prayers, conversations, activities, and giving revolve around who the Lord Jesus is and leading people to faith in Him, discipling or equipping them, and starting churches. They also send missionaries to other parts of the world to make disciples of Christ. Yes, they have land and buildings, but those temporary things are used to enhance their primary mission (making disciples), not detract them from it. 

Where we invest our treasure influences where we focus our hearts. Do our priorities reflect this biblical truth? Does the way we manage the money God has given us reflect that the Lord and His work are our inheritance?

How to be more Effective in Evangelism

“But Simon answered and said to Him, ‘Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.’” Luke 5:5

After fishing all night without catching any fish, Peter was hesitant to obey Jesus’ command to launch out into the deep water to let down their nets (5:4-5a). Who could blame him? Peter was an expert fisherman, and he knew that if you do not catch any fish on the Sea of Galilee during the night time when fish come to the surface to feed, you are not about to catch any fish during the daytime when the fish go down into the deeper waters. Even though Jesus’ command did not make any sense to him and contradicted his experience, Peter still was willing to obey the Lord – “nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net” (5:5a). 

When Peter let down his nets where Jesus told him, he caught a net-breaking, boat-sinking catch of fish (5:6-7). What made the difference between this outing and the previous one? After all, this was the same fishermen (with the addition of Jesus), the same boat, the same nets, and the same body of water they fished upon during the night. The main difference was that Jesus was now in Peter’s boat (5:3) to direct his fishing. 

If we want to be effective at catching men (and women and children) for Christ (5:10), we must have Christ in the boat of our lives, and we must obey Him even if it does not make sense to us or line up with our experiences. We can get Christ into the boat of our lives by believing in Him for His gift of everlasting life (John 1:12; 3:15-16). And then He will make us fishers of people as we learn to trust and obey Him as our Master Fisherman (Luke 5:1-11). With Christ at the helm of our lives, we will see more people come to Him in faith than we ever thought possible!

Evidence for the Rapture of the Church Before the Tribulation

When discussing the timing of the Rapture or the removal of the Church from the earth, it is important to understand the difference between the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ:

A.The Rapture: Christ will return in the atmosphere and will rapture or catch up to be with Him forever all those who believe in Him during the church age.  

B. The Second Coming of Christ: After seven years of tribulation on the whole world, Christ will return to earth with His church, to set up and rule His Kingdom for 1000 years. 

When will the Rapture occur in relation to the Second Coming? Many godly, serious students of the Bible have different views about the timing of the Rapture of the church. Some believe that the Rapture will happen either before (pretribulationism), at the middle (midtribulationism), or at the end of the 7 years of Tribulation (posttribulationism). The reason for differing views is because no single Bible verse says precisely when the Rapture will take place in relation to the Tribulation or the Second Coming in a way that would settle the issue to everyone’s satisfaction. However, this does not mean that the Bible does not teach a clear position on this matter, for I believe it does. Many important biblical doctrines are not derived from a single verse, but are the result of harmonizing many passages into systematic conclusions (e.g. the Trinity or the God-Man nature of Christ).

I believe that a systematic, literal interpretation of all New Testament passages relating to the Rapture will lead to the pretribulational viewpoint: that, at the Rapture, all living believers will be caught up into heaven at least seven years before Christ’s Second Coming. The biblical evidence points to the Rapture or removal of the Church taking place before the Tribulation period. 

1. Jesus is the Original Teacher of the Pretribulation Rapture. In Matthew 24 Jesus answers His disciples’ questions in verse 3, “When will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” He answers the second question (“And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”) first in Matt. 24:4-35. This is designated by the words “the sign” (to semeion) used only in verses 3 and 30. In Matthew 24:4-14, the Lord Jesus surveys the entire 7-year tribulation. Matthew 24:5-8 describe the first half of the tribulation period consisting of judgments depicting the 2nd, 3rd, and 4thseal judgments of Revelation 6:3-8 which take place in the first half of the 7-year tribulation. Matthew 24:9-14 then describes the second half of the 7-year tribulation period. The words “and then the end will come” (v. 14b) refer to the end of the 7-year tribulation period.

Then beginning in Matthew 24:15, Jesus returns to the midpoint of the Tribulation period to focus on more details during the last half of the 7-year tribulation period. The words “abomination of desolation” (v. 15a) are taken from Daniel 9:27. Jesus is telling His disciples that Daniel 9:27 is the key to understanding the prophetic events He is describing.  The words “whoever reads, let him understand” (v. 15b) also substantiates this. The book of Daniel has many descriptions of Daniel’s wisdom and understanding (cf. Daniel 1:4; 2:21; 5:11, 14; 10:12, 14). Jesus is asking His disciples to gain prophetic wisdom and understanding from Daniel to accurately interpret His teaching here.

Christ then describes in detail the second half of the 7-year tribulation in Matthew 24:15-28. In verse 29 Jesus uses the phrase, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days…” to introduce His description of His Second Coming described in Matthews 24:29-31. Christ explains in Matthew 24:32-35 how the events of the 7-year tribulation He just described (Matt. 24:5-31) are like the springtime budding of the fig tree. Just as the budding of the fig tree in the spring signals the nearness of summer, so the events that take place during the 70thweek of Daniel provide clear evidence of the nearness of Christ’s Second Coming. Throughout Matthew 24:5-31 there are many observable “signs” or “warnings” that signal Christ’s future return to earth. In Matthew 24:32-35 Jesus commands His disciples to “learn this parable from the fig tree” and “When you see all these things, know that it [His return to earth] is near.”

But when we come to Matthew 24:36, Jesus says, “But of that day and hour no one knows.” Now Jesus is talking about His coming without any preceding observable signs that signal His return. Jesus is talking about two different aspects of His Second Coming – one that involves observable signs (Matthew 24:4-31) and one that involves no observable signs (Matthew 24:36-44).

Matthew 24:36-44 provides clear evidence of the imminent, unpredictable coming of Christ and the accompanying pretribulational rapture:

a. The Greek phrase “But of” (peri de) that Jesus uses in 24:36 at the beginning of the sentence marks a new section of thought that looks back to the previous material to answer an unanswered question. Hence, Jesus answers the disciples’ first question (“When will these things be?”) in verse 3 about when the end-time events will begin. Christ reveals that the beginning of the day of the Lord and the accompanying rapture of the church cannot be known. Because of this major transitional marker (peri de), “the coming of the Son of Man” (24:37) is referring to a different phase of the Lord’s return (i.e. the pretribulational rapture). 

b. The peri de (“But of”) of verse 36 is followed by the phrase “that day and hour.” In Matthew 24, only the phrase “those days” (plural) had been used (24:19, 22, 29). But in verse 36, Jesus changes to “that day” (singular). Why? Because He is transitioning to talk about the Old Testament day of the Lord which was considered an imminent event (Ezek. 30:3, 9; Joel 3:14, 18; Zeph. 1:7-15). The apostle Paul also uses “day” for the imminent day of the Lord in I Thessalonians 5:4. Both the pretribulational rapture and day of the Lord are illustrated by the thief in the night imagery which is an imminent event (cf. Matt. 24:43; Luke 12:39-40; I Thess. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10). 

c. After Jesus looked of the events of Daniel’s 70th  week as a whole (Matt. 24:4-35), He now talks about the beginning of that week (Matt 24:36-44) which will catch everyone by surprise. Jesus explains that the coming of “that day and hour” will be like “the days of Noah” in which people “were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (24:38-39; cf. Luke 17:27-28 where a similar description of the days of Lot is given).  The lifestyles described in the days of Noah and Lot have existed in every generation since the early days of human history. These lifestyles are ones of normalcy and indifference.

In Matthew 24:41-42, two men are working in a field and two women are grinding at the mill which also focuses on normal, unsuspecting lifestyles. Jesus’ point in Matthew 24:37-39 is that just as normal and unsuspecting lifestyles existed prior to the great worldwide judgment of the flood in Noah’s day, so too normal and unsuspecting lifestyles will exist prior to the sudden beginning of the day-of-the-Lord judgments which begin after the Rapture of the church. The people of Noah’s day “did not know” about the coming worldwide flood “until the flood came and took them all away” (24:39). Is it likely that the world will not know about the devastating judgments that have been inflicting it during the past 7-year tribulation (Matt. 24:5-31; cf. Rev. 6:6-17)? Not likely. It is much better to understand Jesus’ Noah illustration corresponding to the time of the sudden arrival of the day of the Lord and the pretribulation rapture. 

d. The word “taken” in Matthew 24:40-41 refers to believers being taken in the rapture before the tribulation. While Jesus uses the word airo (“took…away”) in Matthew 24:37 to refer to unbelievers being taken in judgment by the Flood, He uses a different word for “taken” (paralambano) in Matthew 24:40-41. This word, paralambano, has the meaning of being “taken to or with [oneself].” It conveys the idea of personal accompaniment. In other words, believers will be taken to be with Christ forever at the rapture of the church. Two days after His teaching in Matthew 24, Jesus used the word paralambano in John 14:3 to describe the taking of believers in a pretribulational rapture – “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive [paralambano] you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3). This understanding is substantiated further by the word for “left” (aphiemi) in Matthew 24:40-41 which has the idea of “abandon” when its object is a person (cf. Matt. 4:11, 22; 8:15; 13:36; 19:29; 22:22, 25; 26:56, etc.). God will never abandon believers (Heb. 13:5). Two days after Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24, He used aphiemi in John 14:18 when He said, “I will not leave [aphiemi] you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). Rather than referring to unbelievers being taken to judgment and believers being abandoned by the Lord in Matthew 24:40-41, Christ is referring to believers being taken to be with Jesus forever at the rapture of the church and unbelievers being abandoned to face God’s wrath during the 7-year tribulation period. The judgments of the day of the Lord will come on unbelievers and they will not escape (I Thess. 5:3). 

e. Jesus employs “the thief” imagery in Matthew 24:42-44 to encourage His disciples to “Watch” and “be ready” for His any-moment coming for them. This thief imagery is also used in several other prophetic passages dealing with the rapture and day of the Lord, most importantly I Thess. 5:2-4 and 2 Peter 3:10. A thief depends upon the element of surprise. He does not give any forewarning of his coming. Hence, the thief imagery used in Matthew 24:42-44 must refer to the pretribulational rapture of the church which has no observable signs prior to it (Matthew 24:36-44). But the Second Coming of Christ to earth at the end of the tribulation has many observable signs (Matthew 24:5-31). 

f. The use of the word “Watch” (gregoreo) in Matthew 24:42-43 in connection with the thief imagery conveys the idea of imminency – it could happen at any moment. Gregoreo occurs several times in prophetic passages taught by Jesus (Matt. 24:42, 43; 25:13; Mark 13:34, 35, 37; Luke 12:37) and the apostles Paul ( I Thess. 5:6, 10) and John (Rev. 3:2, 3; 16:15). Eight of the twelve uses of gregoreo in prophecy take place with the thief imagery (Matt. 24:42-43; Luke 12:37-39; I Thess. 5:2-10; Rev. 3:2-3; Rev. 16:15). Even in non-prophetic passages, imminency is connected to the use of the verb “to watch” (cf. Matt. 26:45; Acts 20:31; I Pet. 5:8). It is most appropriate to understand Jesus’ command to “watch” or be “alert” (gregoreo) in connection with the thief imagery in Matthew 24:42-44, to refer to an imminent, pretribulational return of Christ prior to the tribulation period. Hence, we can be confident that the apostle Paul’s use of the verb “to watch’ in I Thessalonians 5:6 and 10 in the context of an imminent pretribulational rapture was derived from Jesus’ use of the same word in Matthew 24:42-44 where He stressed watchfulness in the context of His imminent pretribulational rapture. 

g. The resemblance of Jesus’ teaching on the pretribulational rapture of the church (Matthew 24:36-44) and Paul’s (I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11) and Peter’s teachings (I Peter 3:20-21; 2 Peter 2:4-9; 3:3-13). There is a striking resemblance between one taken from the field and the mill in Matthew 24:40-41 and Paul’s teaching of believers taken in the rapture in I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:15-18;  5:9-10 and unbelievers being left behind for judgment in I Thessalonians 5:3. We also see a keen resemblance between Jesus’ use of the thief imagery (Matt. 24:42-44) and Paul’s use of it in I Thessalonians 5:2 (“For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night”).  Also in I Thessalonians 5:1-3, the sudden arrival of the day of the Lord will be preceded by a time of “peace and safety.” This resembles Jesus’ description in Matthew 24:39 of “the days of Noah” when people “were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away.” Both Jesus and Paul describe the universal, surprise arrival of the day of the Lord and the rapture when people had normal, unsuspecting lifestyles. These similarities can best be explained by Paul drawing on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24:36-44.

Likewise, it can also be observed that Peter draws on Jesus’ pretribulational rapture teaching in Matthew 24:36-44 when he uses the exact phrase “days of Noah” in I Peter 3:20. First Peter 3:20-21a read, “who [the spirits now in prison] formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism.” For Peter, the flood served as “an antitype” (antitypos) or foreshadowing of something. Noah’s deliverance is a picture (“antitype”) of the kind of baptism mentioned in verse 21. The water did not save Noah and his family but was rather an instrument of God’s judgment. The ark saved them. Just as the waters of God’s judgment fell upon the ark and not Noah, so God’s eternal judgment fell upon Christ and not us (3:18). Furthermore, just as Noah and his family escaped God’s watery judgment by being placed in the ark, likewise Christians escape God’s eternal judgment by being placed in Christ’s body, the Church, through Spirit baptism the moment they believe in Jesus (I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:26-27). For Peter, Noah’s entrance into the ark is a type of the believer’s entrance into the universal church by means of Spirit baptism. Since the apostle Paul taught that the invisible church (all believers) is delivered by rapture before the tribulation (I Thess. 1:9-10; 4:13-18; 5:9-10; cf. Rev. 3:10), and in Peter’s illustration the ark represents the church (all believers placed in Christ’s body by means of Spirit baptism), then the deliverance of Noah and his family in the ark foreshadows the pretribulational rapture of the church and its deliverance from the future day of the Lord.

In 2 Peter 3:15-16, Peter indicates that he is fully aware of Paul’s letters, which would include Paul’s teaching on the day of the Lord and the rapture (I Thess. 4:13-5:11). Before his comments about Paul’s letters, Peter says “the day of the Lord will come as a thief” (2 Pet. 3:10). Peter had personally heard Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24, so he is undoubtedly drawing from Jesus’ teaching there as well as from Paul’s teaching in I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11. Peter also mentions the flood in 3:6 after stating that false teachers will mock the promise of Christ’s return in 2 Peter 3:3-4a. The basis of their mocking is the observation that life will continue to unfold without any evidence of divine intervention (3:4b). This also resembles Jesus’ teachings about the days of Noah in Matthew 24:37-39 and Paul’s teaching that peace and safety will precede the sudden destructions of the day of the Lord in I Thessalonians 5:3. But Peter informs us that these false teachers have “willfully” forgotten the flood of Noah’s day (2 Peter 3:5-6). In 2 Peter 2:4-9, Peter connects the flood to the future judgment of the day of the Lord. The phrase in 2 Peter 2:9 concerning God’s rescue of “the godly out of temptations” (ek peirasmou) suggests the rapture of Revelation 3:10 where believers are kept “from [out of] the hour of trial [tribulation] (ek tes horas tou peirasmou) which shall come upon the whole world.” The peirasmou (“temptations/trials”) that Peter has in mind are not everyday, routine trials in 2 Peter 2:9. The trials described are the worldwide flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in 2 Peter 2:4-9. The flood was a judgment of God on the entire world. It was a physical judgment, not an eternal judgment. This resembles the 7-year tribulation period and is described by the same term (peirasmou). Neither Noah or Lot went through the trial as did the ungodly. Noah was not in the flood. He did not experience a post-flood, mid-flood, or three-fourths flood rescue, but a pre-flood rescue. The deliverance of Noah and Lot can only represent the rapture of the church before the day of the Lord judgments during the 7-year tribulation period. In Peter’s mind, the judgment of the flood is connected with the time leading up to the imminent arrival of the day of the Lord. Since 2 Peter 2:9 and I Thessalonians 5:9 declare a deliverance from the day of the Lord by an imminent pretribulational rapture of the church, it is most likely that they both derived their teaching from the Lord Jesus in Matthew 24:36-44. 

2. The distinction between Israel and the Church.God’s single program for history includes two peoples, Israel and the Church. While the basis of salvation (God’s grace) is always the same for Jew and Gentile, God’s prophetic program has two distinct aspects. Presently, God’s plan for Israel is on hold until He completes His current purpose with the Church and Raptures His Bride to heaven (Rom. 11; Eph. 5). Only pretribulationism provides a purpose for the rapture. That purpose is to remove the Church via the Rapture so God can complete His unfinished business with Israel during the seven-year Tribulation period. The seventieth week (Tribulation period) set forth in Daniel 9:24-27, is God’s dealings primarily with Israel (“your people and your holy city”) and therefore cannot be a reference to the church. Since the church had no part in the first 69 weeks of years (because it did not exist until after Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension at Pentecost, Acts 2), which were related to God’s program for Israel, it will have no part in the 70thweek, which again is God’s program specifically related to Israel. The Bible clearly states that this 70thweek is to test earth dwellers (Rev. 3:10; 6:10; 11:10; 13:8, 12, 14; 14:6; 17:8) and to prepare Israel for her King (Deut. 4:23-31; Zech.  12:1-13:1, 7-9; Mal. 4:5-6). Because the church is not in view during the tribulation period, its removal must occur prior to the tribulation. Therefore, if one does not distinguish between passages which God intends for Israel from those intended for the church, there results an improper confusion of the two programs. 

3.  The Contrast between the Rapture and the Second Coming demands a pretribulation Rapture.

a. The Rapture is imminent – it could happen at any moment (Matthew 24:36-51; I Corinthians 15:51-52; I Thess. 4:13-5:11), whereas the Second Coming is preceded by numerous signs (outpouring of Spirit, prophesy, dreams, visions, blood, fire, columns of smoke, warfare, darkening of sun and moon, unprecedented suffering, etc.; Matt. 24:4-35; Joel 2:28-32; Rev. 6-18).

b. The Rapture removes believers (Matthew 24:40-41; I Thess. 4:13-18) whereas in the Second Coming, Christ returns with His church (Rev. 19:8, 14).

c. The Rapture results in the removal of the church and the start of the Tribulation (I Thess. 4:13-5:11), whereas the Second Coming results in the start of the 1000-year rule of Christ on earth (Rev. 19:11-20:6).

d. The Rapture brings a message of hope and comfort (I Thess. 4:13-18), whereas the Second Coming brings a message of judgment (2 Thess. 1:3-9; Rev. 19:11-20).

e. The Rapture of the church was previously unknown (“mystery,” I Cor. 15:51-58) to the Old Testament writers, whereas the Second Coming is predicted in both Old & New Testaments (Joel 2:28-32; Zech. 14; Matt. 24:4-30; Mark 13:24-26).

f. At the Rapture, the Lord takes believers from earth to heaven “to the Father’s house”(John 14:3); at the Second Coming believers return from heaven to the earth (Matt. 24:30).

g. At the Rapture, Christians are judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Cor. 3:11-15; 4:1-5; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 4:4), but at the Second Coming, Gentile nations are judged (Matt. 25:31-46).

h. The Rapture is before the day of wrath (I Thess. 4:13-5:11), but the Second Coming concludes the day of wrath (Rev. 11:15-18; 19:11-20).

4. A time interval is needed between the Rapture and the Second Coming. An interval or gap of time is needed between the Rapture and the Second Coming in order to facilitate many events predicted in the Bible in a timely manner. Numerous items in the New Testament can be harmonized by a pre-trib time gap of at least seven years, while other views, especially posttribulationists, are forced to postulate scenarios that would not realistically allow for a normal passage of time. The following events are best harmonized with an interval of time as put forth by pretribulationism:

a. The Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10) will take a significant passage of time to evaluate believers prior to returning to earth for the Millennial Kingdom. The pre-trib gap of seven years nicely accounts for such a requirement.

b. Since Revelation 19:7-10 pictures the church as a bride who has been made ready for marriage (illustrated as “fine linen,” which represents “the righteous acts of the saints”) to her groom (Christ); and the bride has already been clothed in preparation for her return at the Second Coming accompanying Christ to the earth (Rev. 19:11-18), it follows that the church would already have to be complete and in heaven (because of the pre-trib rapture) in order to have been prepared in the way that Revelation 19 describes. This requires an interval of time which pretribulationism handles well.

c. Believers who come to faith in Christ during the Tribulation are not translated at Christ’s Second Coming, but carry on ordinary occupations such as farming and building houses, and they will bear children (Isa. 65:20-25). This would be impossible if all saints were translated at the Second Coming to the earth, as posttribulationists teach. Because pretribulationists have at least a seven-year interval between the removal of the church at the rapture and the return of Christ to the earth, this is not a problem because millions of people will be saved during the interval and thus be available to populate the millennium in their natural bodies in order to fulfill Scripture.

d. It would be impossible for the judgment of the Gentiles to take place after the Second Coming (Matt. 25:31-46) if the rapture and second coming are not separated by a gap of time. How would both saved and unsaved, still in their natural bodies, be separated in judgment, if all living believers are translated at the Second Coming? This would be impossible if the translation takes place at the second coming, but it is solved through a pretribulational gap.

5. The imminency of Christ’s return for His Church.The New Testament speaks of our Lord’s return as imminent, meaning that it could happen at any moment. Other events mayoccur before an imminent event, but nothing else must take place before it happens. Imminency passages instruct believers to lookwatch, and waitfor His coming (Matt. 24:42-44;1 Cor. 1:7; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thes. 1:10; Titus 2:13; Heb. 9:28; 1 Peter1:13; Jude 1:21). If either the appearance of the Antichrist, the Abomination of Desolation, or the unfolding of the Tribulation must occur before the Rapture, then a command to watch for Christ’s coming would not be relevant. Only pretribulationism teaches a truly imminent Rapture since it is the only view not requiring anything to happen before the Rapture. 

6. The Nature of the Tribulation.  The Bible teaches that the Tribulation (i.e. the seven-year, 70th week of Daniel 9:24-27) is a time of preparation for Israel’s restoration and regeneration (Deut. 4:29-30; Jer. 30:4-11; Ezek. 20:22-44; 22:13-22). Revelation 3:10 notes that the Tribulation will not be for the church but for “those who dwell upon the earth”(Rev. 3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 11:10 [twice]; 13:8, 12, 14 [twice]; 17:2, 8), as a time upon them for their rejection of Christ and His salvation. While the church will experience tribulation in general during this present age (John16:33), she is never mentioned as participating in Israel’s time of trouble, which includes the Great Tribulation, the Day of the Lord, and the Wrath of God. Pretribulationalism gives the best answer to the biblical explanation of the fact that the church is never mentioned in passages that speak about tribulational events, while Israel is mentioned consistently throughout these passages.

7. The Nature of the Church. Only pretribulationalism is able to give full biblical meaning to the New Testament teaching that the church differs significantly from Israel. The church is said to be a mystery (Eph. 3:1-13) by which Jews and Gentiles are now united into one body in Christ (Eph. 2:11-22). This explains why the church’s translation to heaven is never mentioned in any Old Testament passage that deals with the Second Coming after the Tribulation, and why the church is promised deliverance from the time of God’s wrath during the Tribulation (1 Thes. 1:9-10; 5:9; Rev.3:10). The church alone has the promise that all believers will be taken to the Father’s house in heaven (John 14:1-3) at the Rapture, and not to the earth as other views would demand.

8. The Work of the Holy Spirit. Second Thessalonians 2:1-12 discusses a man of lawlessness being held back until a later time. Interpreting the restrainer of evil (2:6) as the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit at work through the body of Christ during this current age, supports the pretribulational interpretation. Since “the lawless one” (the beast or Antichrist) cannot be revealed until the Restrainer (the Holy Spirit) is taken away (2:7-8), the Tribulation cannot occur until the church is removed.

9. The Nature of God.God is a merciful God who withholds the judgment that His people deserve (Ps. 103:8-17). His merciful character is seen delivering His own people out before He sends judgment as illustrated in the lives of Enoch  (Gen. 5:22-24; Heb. 11:5), Noah (Gen. 6-9), and Lot (Gen. 19).  Pretribulationalism  best reflects God’s merciful character by teaching that His church is removed from the earth before the outpouring of His wrath on the world during the Tribulation (I Thess. 4:13-5:11).

10. The expositional teaching of I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11. The apostle Paul provides a rough outline of the book of I Thessalonians in 1:9b-10: The phrase “How you turned to God from idols”(1:9b) points to the Thessalonians past conversion which is explained in chapters 2:1-3:13. The phrase “to serve the living and true God”(1:9c) is explained in 4:1-12. In this section Paul talks about the lifestyle these believers must pursue in the present in order to please the Lord – “abstain from immorality,” “love one another,” and proper behavior toward outsiders. The phrase “and to wait for His Son from heaven whom He raised from the dead”(1:10a) is addressed in 4:13-18 where Paul talks about the rapture of the church to comfort these believers who had experienced the loss of fellow believers through death. The phrase “even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come”(1:10b) is then explained in 5:1-11. 

Let’s look now at I. The Rapture of the Church (4:13-18). The word rapture means “to seize” suddenly or “to snatch” suddenly and the Latin translation of this verb is the word “raptus,” from which we get the word “rapture.” The Rapture will be a time when all believers are suddenly caught up into glory and experience joy unspeakable! In 4:13 Paul writes, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.” The phrase “fallen asleep” refers to those believers who had died. “The early Christians adopted a very wonderful word for the burying places of their loved ones—the Greek word koimeterion, which means, “a rest house for strangers, a sleeping place.” It is the same word from which we get our English word cemetery. The same word was used in that day for inns, or what we would call a hotel or motel. They are the places where you spend the night to sleep. You expect to get up the next day and continue your journey. This is the picture of the place where you bury your believing loved ones…The body of the believer has just been put into a “motel” until the resurrection. One day the Lord is coming, and that body is going to be raised up.” (J. Vernon McGee, p. 78). The main truth here is that just as physically we sleep and expect to awake, so as Christians, when we die, we can be assured that one day we will be awakened by the return of the Lord.

God does not want Christians to be uninformed about the rapture. Why? Because He doesn’t want us to face life with no hope when a loved one dies. Some churches do not teach Bible prophecy. Hence, some believers do not know about the rapture. Can you imagine the surprise of believers who don’t know about the rapture and they start to rise above the earth? Quite a shock!  Let’s look at the order of events:

A. The Return of Christ in the air with Christians who have died – “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (4:14): The Rapture of the church is just as certain as the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we think prophecy isn’t as sure as history. Verse 14 tells us that both are true. At one point in time the death and resurrection of Christ was prophecy. Now it’s history. We can believe the rapture with equal certainty. In particular, we can believe that Christians who have died will return with Christ in the air. What happens when a Christian dies? His spirit goes immediately to heaven. 2 Corinthians 5:8 says: “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. The body “sleeps” in the grave, but the spirit is in heaven with Christ. Philippians 1:23 says: “For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” When we depart from this life, we are with Christ. When the rapture occurs, Christ will return in the air with believers who have died. Why? 

B. The Resurrection of the bodies of Christians who have died – “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.” (4:15). Paul introduces this verse with a statement of divine authority; he is saying it “by the word of the Lord.” This expression may suggest at least two things. First of all, it suggests that Paul derived this teaching from Jesus Christ Himself. It is mostly likely a reference to Jesus’ pretribulational rapture teaching in Matthew 24:36-44. Secondly, this statement is not to be taken lightly. In I Corinthians, Paul refers to the Rapture as a “mystery.” The biblical definition of a “mystery” is “a truth that has not been revealed before.” You won’t find the Rapture teaching in the Old Testament. It was not revealed before the New Testament.

 Paul tells these people that not only will those who have died in Christ be present at the return of the Lord, but they will actually have a place of prominence. Believers who are alive will “by no means precede those who” have died. This is a very emphatic statement. It says we will by no means go before them. Paul is very careful to make this point.

Notice that Paul included himself in these verses – “we who are alive and remain…” He expected to be “alive” when Jesus returned. He believed the Rapture could take place at any time. Christ will resurrect the bodies of these believers who’ve died so that their spirits, which are now with Christ, can re-enter that body permanently in resurrection. The Bible teaches the sleep of the body, not the sleep of the spirit. 

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (4:16). In the Rapture, it is the Lord Himself that is coming. This is in keeping with the words of the two angels who spoke to the disciples at the time of Jesus’ Ascension. Acts 1:11 says, “…Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” If Jesus was to descend in the same manner in which he ascended, then we would certainly expect His Second Coming to be personal and physical. It is not the Holy Spirit who is coming or even one of God’s angels…it is the Lord Himself! The details of this passage are complete. We are even given the sounds that will be heard at this great event. There are not three sounds, but only one sound that is described in three different ways. There will be a sound which is like a shout, which is also like the voice of an archangel and also like the sound of a trumpet, and the sound will only be heard by those who have placed their trust in Christ – “The dead in Christ will rise first.”

C. The Rapture of living Christians – “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up…” (4:17a). The words “caught up” are from the Greek word harpazo. One of the meanings of the word harpazo is “to snatch out or away speedily.” This emphasizes the sudden nature of the Rapture. Paul describes it like this in his letter to the Corinthians. First Corinthians 15:52 says, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”In a split-second, the Lord will call all believers to Himself to share in His glory–not one will remain behind. It is hard to imagine what that will be like. Listen to what one author wrote:

“…Millions of people from all parts of the earth feel a tingling sensation pulsating throughout their bodies. They are all suddenly energized. Those with physical deformities are healed. The blind suddenly see. Wrinkles disappear on the elderly as their youth is restored. As these people marvel at their physical transformation, they are lifted skyward. Those in buildings pass right through ceilings and roofs without pain or damage. Their flesh and bones seem to dematerialize, defying all known laws of physics and biology. As they travel heavenward, some of them see and greet those who have risen from their graves. After a brief mystical union…they all vanish from sight.” [Bible Prophecy 101, p. 123.]

Scattered throughout the Bible are some pictures of people who had experiences similar to the Rapture: 

Enoch -“By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5). 

Elijah – “Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11). 

The Apostle Paul – “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know. God knows —such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out the body I do not know, God knows—how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). (Paul uses the word for “rapture” here – harpazo.). Paul expected the rapture of the church in his lifetime – at any moment now and so should we. At that moment, we’ll receive a new resurrection body according to I Corinthians 15:51-53. 

D. The Reunion of both living and dead believers with the Lord in the air– “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (4:17). Will living believers have to wait to see their loved ones who’ve died? No. Those who had died, will be resurrected just a moment before. Why are the dead raised first? Since their bodies are buried in the ground, they have a little farther to go. So, when they’re resurrected, we join them in the clouds, and together, we meet the Lord in the air. The “clouds” in view here are the same type of clouds that the apostles witnessed when they watched Jesus ascend into heaven (Acts 1:9). The reference to “air” (aera) and “in the clouds” clearly refers to the atmosphere that surrounds the earth (cf. Revelation 9:2; 16:17). Nothing is said about returning to earth. No mention of the judgment of the earth. Nothing is said to happen before the rapture. Not one passage tells us to look for something to happen before this event. Why? Because it is the next event on God’s prophetic calendar. Why is the timing of the rapture so important? Because the Rapture of the church provides comfort for believers who have lost loved ones. 

 E. The Reassurance from this truth – “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (4:18). We will be reunited one day. If the rapture is after the Tribulation or in the middle of the Tribulation period of intense and unusual suffering, there would be little comfort and encouragement. The prospect of Christ coming at any moment is a much greater comfort.

 In 5:1-11, Paul gives instruction to those who are living – II. The RESCUE of the Church from God’s Wrath (5:1-11).The phrase “Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1:10b) is now explained in these verses. “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night”(5:1-2). The Day of the Lord is not the rapture. The Rapture (4:13-18) precedes the Day of the Lord (5:1-11). Compare 4:13 with 5:1-2. Paul didn’t need to write to them about future events because they already knew about the Day of the Lord. 

 That Paul is talking about the wrath of God in the Tribulation is supported by the following: 

  1. The terms “times…seasons” (1) were used by the Lord Jesus in Ac. 1:7 when He refused to declare whether the time had come for restoring the kingdom to Israel. 
  2. “Day of the Lord” refers to a period of judgments and blessings from the start of the Tribulation until the New Heavens and Earth (2 Pet. 3:10-13). 
  3. “Labor pains” (5:3) refer to the beginning of Tribulation period in Matthew 24:8. The Day of the Lord will come as a surprise to non-Christians (5:2b). Notice “They” and “them” in 5:3 in contrast to “we” and “you” in 4:15-16. Paul did not include himself or his readers with those who would see the Day of the Lord. Why? Because believers won’t be there to see it. They will already be gone in the rapture (4:13-18). 

A. The Ruin of non-Christians at the coming wrath of the Tribulation – “1But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape” (5:1-3). Paul compares the coming of the Tribulation wrath to “labor pains” which come “upon a pregnant woman.” The world has been pregnant for the last 2,000 years now, and when the labor begins, it will not last 12 hours or 24 hours, but 7 years. The Day of the Lord will come as a surprise to non-Christians (5:2b). Notice “they” and “them” in 5:3 in contrast to “we” and “you” in 4:15-16. Paul did not include himself or his Christian readers with those who would see the Day of the Lord. Why? Because believers won’t be there to see it. They will already be gone in the Rapture (4:13-18). So, verse 3 is referring to non-Christians who will be left behind.

Prior to the beginning of the Tribulation period there will be a sense of “peace and safety” among unbelievers because of the apathy to the promised coming of Christ (2 Pet. 3:3-10; cf. Matthew 24:37-39). This sense of “peace and safety” will also come through the united efforts of the nations. For years now, especially in Europe, there has been a push toward world peace. But this sense of “peace and safety” will be ruined through the outpouring of God’s wrath on the earth in the Day of the Lord. The unsaved world will not escape the calamities of the Tribulation period.

B. The Rescue of Christians from this coming Wrath – “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief” (5:4). The word “you” is emphatic in the original language. It is contrasting the destiny of Christians with that of non-Christians. The Day (as a thief) cannot overtake believers. Why? Because…

1. They’ve been taught about the Day of the Lord (5:1-2).

2. They have a new nature and will not be part of that Day – “You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness” (5:5). The coming of the Day of the Lord is a day of darkness or judgment, a night time kind of day. By virtue of our new nature and position as children of light, we can have no part in such a day. Why? “9For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him”(5:9-10). Whether a believer is spiritually watchful or not, they will escape the wrath of the Day of the Lord to “live together with” Jesus (5:10). 

C. The Response of Christians to this truth (5:6-8, 11). The certainty of our escape from the coming wrath should motivate us to live godly lives – 6Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.7For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.” (5:6-7). “The Lord is coming unexpectedly, don’t be caught living like non-Christians,” Paul is saying. As Christians, we are to stay spiritually awake, living in anticipation of Christ’s return for us at any moment – and definitely not worried about being caught in the Day of the Lord. How do we stay spiritually awake and alert to the Lord’s coming? “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation” (5:8).The “breastplate” protects vital organs (heart, lungs). This breastplate is composed of faith and love – faith that Christ is coming back any time and love for one another will protect us from spiritual heart damage. “Helmets” protect our head. This “helmet” is made of hope which guards us from attacks on our thinking. This hope focuses on being delivered from the coming wrath. Wear this helmet constantly and you will be ready for His return.

What relevance does this teaching have for the church? “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (5:11).Christians are to encourage one another with this message of comfort and hope. The extent to which Christians misunderstand or are misinformed about the Rapture, will be the extent to which they are robbed of these blessings the Lord intended for them.

11. The Chronology of the book of Revelation. Revelation 1:19 gives a summary of the book’s chronology: “things which you have seen (chapter 1)…things which are (chapters 2-3)…things which will take place after this (chapters 4-22).” Chapters 1-3 present the development of the church in this present age. Chapters 4-5 present the church, represented by the 24 elders, raptured and rewarded in heaven.

A closer look at Revelation 4 shows that John now records “the things which will take place after this” (1:19c) concerning future events after the Rapture of the Church (Chapters 4-22). “After these things [the vision John received of Jesus’ messages to the seven churches in 2:1-3:22], Christ invited John to “come up” to heaven where Jesus would show him future events “which must take place”during Daniel’s 70th  week of years (Dan. 9:27) which is the 7-year Tribulation period  (4:1; cf. 4:1-11:19). “Immediately” John was transported by “the Spirit” to heaven where He saw “a throne” and “One [Father God] sat on the throne” which “was like a jasper [clear as crystal signifying God’s purity] and a sardius stone [red-colored signifying His righteous anger toward sin]… and there was a rainbow [signifying God’s faithfulness] around the throne, in appearance like an emerald [various shades of green signifying God’s grace and blessing]” (4:3). “Around the throne [of God]” were “twenty-four elders [representing faithful believers from the Church Age since “elders” are leaders of the local church – Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5] wearing “white robes and…crowns of gold” [rewards received at the Judgment Seat of Christ for faithful living, cf. 2:25-27; 3:4-5, 21] while seated on “thrones” [indicating rulership with Christ in His coming Kingdom – 4:4; cf. 2 Tim. 2:12]. The fact that these elders are already wearing crowns indicates they have already appeared before the Judgment Seat of Christ to receive their rewards (cf. I Cor. 3:8-15; 9:24-27; 2 Cor. 5:10) which means the vision John describes in heaven takes place after the Rapture of the Church.

This is supported further by the absence of the word “church” and any references to Christians in Chapters 6-18, which describe the outpouring of God’s wrath on the earth. The reason the church is not mentioned in Rev. 6-18 is because it has already been removed by the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver her from “the wrath to come” (I Thess. 1:10; 4:13-18). The church, represented by the “twenty-four elders [19:4; faithful believers from the Church Age since “elders” are leaders of the local church – Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5] and the phrase “His wife” (19:4, 7; cf. 3:20; 21:2, 9:22:17; 2 Cor. 11:2), is described as being with Jesus in Heaven prepared to return with Jesus to earth.

The eternal reign of Jesus Christ is about to replace the rule of sinful man on earth. Christ will return to earth with “the armies of heaven” consisting of Christians and angels “following Him on white horses” (19:8; 2 Thess. 1:7-9). Chapters 6-11 present the events of the entire 70th   week of years (Tribulation), concluding with the return of Christ to the earth to reign (11:15-18). Hence the seals are the judgments of the first 3 ½ years and the trumpets the judgments of the last 3 ½ years. According to Revelation 10:11, chapters 12-19 survey the 70thweek of years (Tribulation) a second time with a view to revealing the specific characters on the stage of the drama. This chronology makes a midtribulation rapture impossible because the “so-called” midtribulation rapture of Revelation 11:15-18 is actually the Second Coming of Christ to earth at the end of the Tribulation. Chapters 20-22 describe the 1000-year reign of Christ on earth, the Great White Throne Judgment of unbelievers, and the new heavens and new earth. Thus, the chronology of the book of Revelation provides more evidence for the pretribulation Rapture.

Conclusion

1. All Christians will suffer tribulation (John 16:33), but they will be kept from the severe Tribulation and wrath unlike any other in history (Matthew 24:21).

2. This issue is not minor or unimportant, because each major passage on the Rapture emphasizes that this teaching about the future should be a constant source of encouragement, comfort, and motivation to godly living. To the extent believers misunderstand or are misinformed about the Rapture (Matt. 24:45-51), they will be robbed of these blessings meant for them by God.

Prayer In Evangelism

“Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the Lord. So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live.” Joshua 9:14-15

After Israel had learned that obedience was necessary to experience victory at Jericho (6:1-27), they had another important lesson to learn. Not all of Israel’s enemies wanted to fight them. The Gibeonites were certain they could not defeat Israel, so they pursued peace with them. They approached Israel’s leaders pretending to come from far away to make a peace treaty with them (9:3-13). How did Israel’s leaders respond? “Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the Lord. So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live” (9:14-15). Their failure to seek God’s guidance in prayer led them to compromise God’s will. 

If we do not pray as individual believers and as a church, we will become more vulnerable to Satan’s attacks (cf. Ephes. 6:10-13, 18). Prayer protects us from the deception and bondage of the devil.

However, when we do pray to God, nothing is impossible with God. We see this in the next chapter of Joshua. When Joshua needed more light to defeat the Amorites, he remembered God’s promise to deliver the Amorites into his hand (10:8) and prayed for the sun and moon to stand still: “Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel: ‘Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon’” (10:12). God supernaturally stopped the rotation of the earth so Israel could defeat its enemies: “So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the people had revenge upon their enemies” (10:13). 

Never underestimate what God can do through one person who prays (cf. James 5:17-18). As we preach the gospel to a lost world, keep this in mind when you need God to overcome your circumstances (cf. Acts 12:3-12; 13:4-12; Philippians 1:12-19), give you boldness in a fearful situation (cf. Acts 4:29, 31; Ephes. 6:18-20), or grant you favor with others (cf. Acts 1:14; 2:1, 41, 47; Col. 4:3). He still answers the prayer of faith.

Preaching Repentance

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” Luke 3:4-6

When Luke writes that John the Baptist “went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (3:3), he refers to the prophet Isaiah’s beautiful description of John’s ministry (cf. Isaiah 40:3-5) which is compared to a highway builder that prepares “the way” (3:4). Isaiah tells how highways are built: “Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth” (3:5-6a; cf. Isaiah 40:3-5). Check with a modern road builder and he will tell you that is exactly how a highway is built: the low spots (“valley”) are filled in, the high spots (“mountain”) are leveled, the “crooked” ones are straightened out, and the “rough” ones are made smooth. 

This description of John’s ministry to people is still the way repentance works in the human heart today. If you feel low and worthless, depressed, insignificant, your life is meaningless, you are in a “valley” — then transfer your trust to Christ and He will lift you up: “Every valley shall be filled.” That is where Jesus will meet you. If you feel proud and self-sufficient, able to handle your own affairs, then come down: “Every mountain and hill brought low.” That is where Christ will meet you, and nowhere else. If you are handling things in a “crooked” manner, if you are devious in your business dealings and untrustworthy in your relationships with others, then realize there is only One who can forgive your crooked ways – Jesus. “The crooked places shall be made straight.” That is what John preached: “Repent.” Change your mind about whatever is keeping you from trusting Christ and trust Him for salvation. Christ will meet you right there. If you are given to riding roughshod over people, your life is filled with a lot of rough, tough situations, repent, change your mind and trust Christ to save you; decide to smooth out those places, deal with those things, and Jesus will meet you right there. “And the rough ways smooth.” That is a highway for God to come to you. That was John’s ministry all through his life.

John’s message of repentance is one of preparation: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight” (3:4). John summons the people to be ready for the coming Messiah so “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” in His Messiah (3:6). John is the one preparing the way for the coming King – an important role in ancient times that involved leveling the land and clearing the road. John’s “voice” was to prepare the way for Jesus the Messiah to come to His people so they may believe in Him (3:4a; cf. John 1:7; Acts 19:4). 

Likewise, God calls believers today to be His “voices.” God wants to use each of us to prepare the way in our generation. Each generation has a voice, and we are the voice for this time and this place. Our role, like John’s, is temporary, but it is essential. Without the voice, the people will not hear. And if they do not hear, they won’t be able to believe in Jesus for eternal life (cf. Rom. 10:14).

Rahab and God’s Grace

“Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, ‘Go, view the land, especially Jericho.’ So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there.” Joshua 2:1

When Joshua sent two spies to secretly assess the land of Canaan, they “came to the house of a harlot named Rahab” who hid them on her roof to protect them from the king of Jericho’s men who sought to kill them (Josh. 2:1-7). Rahab was a woman of faith (cf. Heb. 11:31; James 2:25) who trusted in Israel’s God knowing that He had “given” Israel “the land” and He would bring it to pass since she “had heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for” them and had defeated “the two kings of the Amorites” for them (2:8-10). After Rahab pleaded to the spies to deliver her and her family from death, the spies instructed Rahab to tie a scarlet cord in the window through which she let them escape to identify her house for rescue, and if she and her family stayed in her house which was on the city wall, they promised to spare her and her family when the city of Jericho was destroyed (2:12-21). Amazingly when the walls of Jericho fell flat, Rahab’s house stood firm and she and her household were saved from physical death (6:22-25).

Like Rahab, all of us have sinned with our thoughts, words, and actions (Rom. 3:23). We all deserve to die forever in hell. But God loves us just like He loved Rahab. Her story is filled with pictures of Jesus Himself. Rahab’s scarlet cord pictures the safety we can have through Christ’s blood from God’s eternal judgment (2:21; cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; I Pet. 3:18). In Rahab’s case, the scarlet cord would have been visible to the Israelite army as they marched around the city of Jericho before the walls fell flat because Rahab’s house was built into the city wall. The scarlet cord not only spared Rahab’s house and those in it from God’s judgment on the city, but it also marked her and her family out to be brought into God’s family. Just as God’s judgment passed over Rahab’s house because of the scarlet cord, so God’s eternal judgment passes over every believer because of the blood of Jesus Christ. 

Rahab’s story reminds us that no one is TOO BAD for God’s grace to save. Will you choose the Lord today to save you from your sins and give you eternal life? Jesus promised, “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16b). Now is the time to trust in Christ alone because later may never come.

God’s Definition of Success

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Joshua 1:8

Before Joshua led the children of Israel across the Jordan River to possess the Promised Land, God gave him His definition of success. Many people are searching for the secret to success and it is right here in verse 8. It involves knowing God’s Word (“This book of the Law” – for Joshua this was the first five books of the Old Testament) so well that it does “not depart from your mouth” (1:8a). God also tells Joshua to “meditate in it day and night” (1:8b). Meditation is much like a cow that chews its cud. Cows chew on grass…swallow it… bring it back up and chew on it some more and then swallow it again to get the most nutrients from that food. Meditating on God’s Word means to have it rolling around in your mind as a way of life, so God can nourish your soul and give direction for your life. Someone once, “Reading the Bible without meditating on it is like trying to eat without swallowing.” You are not going to get the spiritual nourishment you need. 

The purpose of knowing and meditating on God’s Word is so that we will obey it – “that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it” (1:8c). Notice God says to do “all” that His Word says, not just the parts that fit our lifestyle. God wants our lifestyle to line up with His Word, not the other way around. Everyone wants to be successful. The world says success is having a big bank account, a big house, a big boat, a fancy car, and a big retirement plan. The church has bought into this mentality. The church may say you are not successful until you have a big building with a big budget and a big membership. 

But what does God say? God says, “If you want success, know My Word, meditate on My Word, and do what it says.” Success in God’s eyes is getting to the end of your life having done what God wanted you to do. It is being faithful to God’s Word.

Suicide and Salvation

A commonly asked question is whether a born-again believer who commits suicide will still go to heaven. The answers depends much upon one’s view of God’s grace.

Is suicide a sin?

The commandment, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13) applies to a person’s own life as well as to the lives of others. Suicide is self-murder. 

For the Christian, suicide is also the taking of a life that does not belong to him or her:

“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you are bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

Does suicide prove that one was never saved?

Some would say that a person who claims to be a Christian and commits suicide just proves that he or she was never really a Christian at all. But there is no evidence in the Bible that those who have believed in Christ possess anything less than eternal life, which by definition cannot be lost (John 3:15-16, 36; 6:35-40; 10:28-29; 11:25-27). This view often assumes that all Christians persevere in faithfulness and obedience until the end of their lives, but biblical evidence disproves that (e.g. Acts 5:1-11; I Cor. 11:30).

Can a believer commit suicide?

The Bible shows that believers are capable of terrible sins, including suicide (e.g. King Saul – I Sam. 10:9; 28:19; 31:1-7). Believers can abuse the grace of God. Suicide, though terrible, is another sin that a believer can commit.

According to the Bible, all of the believer’s sins are forgiven (Col. 2:13). That is why there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ (Rom. 8:1) and no one can successfully condemn a believer (Rom. 8:31-34), nor can no one or nothing separate a believer from the love of Christ, even death— death from whatever cause (Rom. 8:35-39).

What happens if one dies with unconfessed sin?

The Bible promises that If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). But a believer who commits suicide cannot confess that sin. Yet the truth is every believer will probably die with some specific sins not confessed. Besides, I John 1:9 relates to the believer’s fellowship and walk with God, not the condition for obtaining eternal salvation (cf. 1:3, 6-7). Confessing each and every sin is not a condition of eternal salvation. The only condition is faith in Christ and His offer of eternal life based on His finished work of paying for our sins on the cross (John 3:15-16, 36; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; 19:30; Ac. 16:31; I Tim. 1:16). Christians can be assured that when they sin, they have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, who satisfies God’s justice for all of our sins (1 John 2:1-2).

How does grace apply to suicide?

Since God knows everything and by His grace forgives all sins, past, present, and future, there is no sin that will surprise God or make Him regret having saved someone. The Bible also teaches that where sin abounds, grace abounds much more (Rom. 5:20). No one can out-sin God’s grace! Knowing this, a Christian should never presume upon God’s grace by committing any sin, much less suicide. Suicide is a selfish and serious sin that dishonors God, hurts other people, and deprives God of one’s service on earth. Any abuse of God’s grace has its consequences—a loss of God’s blessings in this life and in the eternal experience as well. But that loss is in the quality of one’s fellowship or enjoyment of God, not in one’s relationship to God.

What does God say about a believer who commits suicide?

In Romans 8:31-39, God answers four questions or accusations that can arise in cases of suicide: 

1. Man’s Accusation:Doesn’t such a death as suicide prove that God works against us, not for us? Isn’t this what prompts a believer to take his life?”

God’s answer: Romans 8:31-32, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” God says, “Since I am for you (and no one is greater than Me), no one can successfully oppose you, including yourself. When the unexpected happens, you need to ignore the lie that God is against you. He is on your side. God does not work against us. How wrong it would be to believe that God turns His back on the believer who commits suicide. God is FOR US – on our side – deeply interested in our needs, our hurts, our pain, our failures and loneliness. 

Proof of this: God gave His Son to die for our sins, including the sin of suicide.  

2. Man’s Accusation: “Doesn’t the suicide of a Christian confirm the fact that Christianity really doesn’t have the solutions to man’s problems?” 

God’s Answer: Romans 8:33: “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” God says, “No one can successfully press charges against a believer in Christ because I have declared him righteous on the basis of his faith in My Son.” No one can successfully accuse any Christian who commits suicide because God does not even accuse him – He declares him totally righteous or not guilty the moment he believed in Jesus Christ. No one can bring an accusation against the Christian who commits suicide that will stand. But how difficult it is at times to realize God’s interest and presence! It’s like the sun – every day – it shines. No one could EVER say – the sun isn’t shining! We may say, “I can’t feel it or see it”…but fly high enough and there it is!

3. Man’s Accusation: “Doesn’t such an act as suicide deserve condemnation?” 

God’s Answer: Romans 8:34 “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” God says, “No one can successfully condemn the believer who commits suicide because My Son – 

… was condemned to death for his sins, removing his guilt (v. 34b).

… was raised to life, satisfying My demand to punish his sins (v.  34c). 

… is at My right hand defending him against all accusations (v. 34d). When Satan comes to God’s throne with accusations against the believer who commits suicide, God looks to His Son, and Jesus says, “Father, I paid for that sin.”

… intercedes for him (v. 34e). Now let me make something quite clear. I am not suggesting that such a death is condoned in Scriptures…for God assures us that He has not only designed LIFE but LIFE MORE ABUNDANTLY for His children (John 10:10). However, the struggles and pain are often too great for a person who commits suicide. But God does not condemn him because Christ has taken his punishment. 

4. Man’s Accusation: “Doesn’t such an act separate a person from God’s love and presence? Isn’t this the classic act of rejection?”

God’s Answer: Romans 8:35-39:“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing (including ourselves), shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing, including suicide, can separate a Christian from the love of God. Even though others may stop loving us or we may stop loving ourselves, God’s love will never abandon us. Nothing you do, say, or think can separate you from God’s love. Absolutely nothing. 

Listen to Jesus’ own words: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them…and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29). That includes the believer who commits suicide!  

Who shall oppose us? NO ONE. Who shall accuse us? NO ONE. Who shall condemn us? NO ONE. Who shall separate us from God’s love? NO ONE. The believer who commits suicide is in God’s presence – no more tears, crying, pain, death or darkness…all that’s gone. His body awaits that incredible moment when it will be raised and changed—NEVER TROUBLED AGAIN WITH INNER DISTURBANCE  …CONFLICT …INSECURITY…UNREST…

How can I overcome thoughts of suicide?

Aim to work on the causes of your emotional pain, not just the symptoms.

If your depression is due to guilt, admit your sin to the Lord (Psalm 32:1-5; I Jn. 1:9).

When you’re depressed, place your hope in God (Psalm 42:5; Lam. 3:20-25).

Avoid being isolated (Eccl. 4:9-10).

Seek help from others (Gal. 6:2; James 5:13-16).

Sing (I Sam. 16:14-23).

Jesus came so you could have life, but Satan came to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Suicidal thoughts often stem from some of Satan’s lies. Focus on the truth of God’s Word and not your feelings or Satan’s lies (Psalm 119:28-29; John 8:31). 

What if I suspect someone I know is having thoughts of suicide?

1. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about it. Ask questions like: “Are you thinking about taking your life? Do you have a suicide plan as to how you would do it? Why do you think that’s the only answer?” Talking about suicide does not plant suicidal thoughts in someone who is already depressed. Talking about suicide actually decreases the possibility of that person taking his life. (If someone has a plan to kill themselves, make sure they get medical assistance immediately!)

2. Obtain a verbal “non-suicide” contract or commitment not to do anything that would be harmful or self-destructive without first talking with you or with a counselor, pastor, or another trusted person. 

3. Ask them to think through these questions: “If you died and came back to life, could you find other reasons for being glad to be alive? Would the Lord’s promises of love and guidance though your trials still be in place? Would the sun still shine and water still be cool and refreshing? Would there still be adventures in life and growth in relationships? Could some positive reasons for living, as opposed to dying, be developed?” Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! There is hope for the hopeless!