The word “church” isn’t found in Rev. 4-19. Many claim this is proof of a pretribulation Rapture. But is it?
One of our regular readers suggested I do an article on this topic because it frequently comes up in discussions of rapture timing.
The vast majority of rapture “proofs” don’t prove anything, and this is yet another one of these so-called proofs. Because this is mentioned so often, however, it is a good to understand why it isn’t a proof so you can quickly refute it and turn the conversation to more productive topics.
The Greek Word for “Church”
The Greek word for “Church” is ekklesia. It is found 17 times in Rev. 1-3 and once in Rev. 22. “See,” say pretrib. rapture enthusiasts, “the “Church” isn’t found in Rev. 4-19. It isn’t on the earth during the Tribulation (which takes place during those chapters) that’s why the word “church” isn’t found. This proves a pretrib. rapture. ”
The word ekklesia sometimes refers to the church universal, “the church.” However, there are entire books of the New Testament where this word is absent. Examples are Mark, Luke, John, Titus, 2 Tim., 1 Pet., 2 Pet., 1 John, 2 John and Jude. Are we to conclude these other books of the Bible aren’t about the church simply because this word is absent? Obviously, these books are about the church with or without the word!
In fact, this use of “church” at the beginning or end of a biblical book (but not in the middle) is quite common. The absence of the word “church” is meaningless as a rapture proof. We need to prove rapture timing by what the Bible says not by what it doesn’t say!
More importantly, in Revelation, the Greek word ekklesia is never used to refer to “the” church, the church universal. In Rev. , this word always refers to the the Seven Churches, either individually or as a group of seven churches. John wrote Revelation for these specific seven churches and sent it to them. He refers to them by name, for example: “The Church in Thyatira,” or refers to them as a group, “send it to the seven churches.”
If the word ekklesia doesn’t refer to the world-wide church in Revelation, it is deceptive to apply this meaning to its absence later in the book!
Revelation does refer to Christians in chapters 4-19. It uses the terms “bond-servants” and “saints” to refer to those who have saving faith in Jesus. “Saints” is used 13 times and “bond-servants” is used 10 times. These terms are used before, during, and after chapters 4-19. [There is one point in the scope of Revelation, however, where these terms aren’t found. That is during the trumpet and bowl judgments, consistent with a prewrath rapture. ]
In fact, it is the righteous deeds of these same “saints” who clothe the Bride of Christ for the marriage of the Lamb!
The marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure. (Rev. 19:7-8)
Does this verse even make sense if those same saints aren’t part of the Bride of Christ? And why would it be only the righteous acts of those enduring the Tribulation (so called “Tribulation saints”) who clothe the Bride? No, the word “saints” is a word for Christians.
Why would revelation use these terms (bond-servants and saints) instead of “church” to refer to Christians? Perhaps its because everyone who attends church isn’t saved! All of “the” church aren’t bond-servants or saints! Jesus taught us in Matt. 24:9-13 that many will fall away from the faith during that time. Many of these are attending church right now, but won’t be raptured later. They will fall away. All those attending our churches aren’t God’s beloved and faithful, only some of them are.
The way that pretrib. enthusiasts use the word “church” in this situation would create two classes of Christians! Those who would come to faith before the supposed pretrib. Rapture and those who come to faith after are considered “different”. In this way, those who come to faith after the rapture aren’t “the” church (since this word is missing in Revelation) They are considered second class Christians in the minds of pretrib. believers.
In my mind their thinking borders on the heretical. Those who face the Tribulation and overcome will be great heroes of the faith.
And they overcame him (Satan) because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. (Rev. 12: 11)
Can those who favor this position honestly say that those who overcome Satan by laying down their lives during the Tribulation will be lesser Christians than those in the weak, soft Church in the west today?
Finally, the word church is missing in the places one would most expect to find it – before the throne of God in Heaven after a supposed pretrib. rapture. In fact, one of the greatest weaknesses of the pretrib. rapture theory is that the raptured saints are NOT seen before the throne of God in Rev. 4-5 while Jesus opens the 7 Sealed Scroll. IF the church had been raptured we would expect to see them there. Rather only the souls of martyrs are seen and this is under the altar not before the throne.
“Church” isn’t found in Rev. 4-19
So in conclusion, we have shown with five separate lines of reasoning that this isn’t a proof of rapture timing at all, neither for nor against the pretrib. rapture. (Although this article casts great doubt on the pretrib. theory.)
And frankly, this is true of almost all rapture timing “proofs.” Only a few theories PROVE proper rapture timing. I have completed a new book, Simplifying the Rapture, that clearly defines those theories. We’ll be publishing it in the Fall of this year.