Q. My question is about the things the Bible says must happen before the coming of the Lord. Do these things refer to the Rapture or the Second Coming? For instance Christ talks about the gospel of the kingdom being preached to all tribes and then the end. Is this a pre- rapture prophecy or a pre-second Coming prophecy. Also Paul says Christ is coming for a church without spot or wrinkle. Is this talking about a church that has worked out its salvation? What does this mean? And this seems like a pre-rapture condition, too.
A. Jesus never spoke about either the Church or the rapture in Matt. 24 so preaching the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 24:14) is not a precondition for the rapture, but for the 2nd Coming. In fact this precondition will be fulfilled by an angel sent from God in Rev. 14:6-7 just after the beginning of the Great Tribulation.
In Ephesians 5:25-27 Paul said Jesus gave Himself up for the Church to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, to present her to Himself as a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any blemish, but holy and blameless. Notice that He has done all the work. He gave Himself up for us, He cleansed us by His word, He made us holy and blameless. There is nothing for us to do but accept in faith that which He has accomplished.
One of the meanings of the phrase “work out” in Phil. 2:12 is “to bring about”. With all of Paul’s insistence that our salvation is due to the Lord’s work and not our own, this meaning makes the most sense. The reason we approach the Lord with fear and trembling it that we have nothing to commend ourselves. In effect we’re asking for everything and offering nothing in return. Our salvation is entirely dependent upon his grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).