“Church” isn’t found in Rev. 4-19 – Why?

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. ”

First

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!

Second

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!

Third

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.

Fourth

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?

Fifth

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.

19 thoughts on ““Church” isn’t found in Rev. 4-19 – Why?”

  1. The flood provides an excellent foreshadowing of the last days. As noted by some scholars (and I’m indebted to Dr John David Pitcher Jr who’s work is shared at the Facebook page The Oldest Midrash) Noah and his family are saved through the Flood, but Enoch is removed from the world by God right before the flood. I don’t find it heretical at all that there may be two classes of Christians – those who walk with the Lord daily and those who are Christian in name but do not walk closely with the Lord. If the Lord feels that some followers need to be sifted and tested, who are we to question it? I only pray that I am tested enough already to “make the cut”! However, if it’s the Lords Will that I should remain and serve, then it would be my honor to do so. Remember, only half the virgins were found ready to meet the bridegroom. Perhaps the church that remains behind are the Jews and those Christians who weren’t fully invested.

    1. Steve, thanks for your comments. I am in complete agreement with you that Jews and those calling themselves Christians (not true Christians) will be left behind at the Rapture. And yes, that is exactly what the Parable of the Ten Virgins is talking about I disagree with Dr. John Pitcher’s position on Enoch and Noah. Please let me explain.

      First, Enoch was translated into the presence of God almost 500 years prior to the flood. Although this is foreshadow of the Rapture, it can’t have any connection to the flood; it is a separate “picture” from Noah. Noah is also a Rapture foreshadow. Noah represents the raptured saints, the Ark was lifted above the surface of the earth – above the flood waters which are representative of the coming fiery wrath of God (see 2 Pet. 3:6-7). He absolutely didn’t go “thru” the flood, he went “over it.” Next, look at what our Lord has to say in Matt. 24:36-39. It is the day and hour no man knows where the unrighteous are partying unaware until the day Noah entered the Ark and the flood swept them all away. Noah is symbolic of the bondservants of God being saved from God’s fiery wrath which occurs on the SAME DAY as the Rapture. This is a key point.

      BTW, the time that Noah was in the Ark (1 year 10 days) is very, very interesting. Dr. Joe Lenard and Don Zoller propose this is exactly the time that the raptured saints are in heaven after the rapture. It also happens to be the exact amount of time in the Jewish year before a Jubilee (From Yom Teruah of one year until Yom Kippur of the next). Most scholars believe that the physical second coming will be a Jubilee. Daniel’s 70 Weeks are ten Jubilee cycles and the year after the 70th Week (the Tribulation) is a Jubilee. Which only makes sense.

      I invite you to read the book Rapture: Case Closed? because a misunderstanding of Rapture timing seems to lie behind your question. It looks at almost all the proofs of all the Rapture theories (147 in all) to come to its conclusion of Rapture timing. This is the book that was sent to the 1000 most influential leaders of the American church. This book also discusses the idea about the 1 year, 10 period which I think you’ll find interesting.

  2. One verse in Revelation which is often overlooked (or ignored) by Pre-Tribbers is one which definitively answers the question of whether or not the testimony of Revelation is for the church:
    “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony FOR THE CHURCHES…” (Revelation 22:16 NIV)

  3. Good article Nelson
    Delete this if I’m having s a dislexic moment🙄
    But when the door opened for John to go through, it happened in 90ad when he went up and got the revelation to share, so it couldn’t have been the rapture, and it doesn’t say that door would open in the future , but that the heavens will pass away.
    Just confused how it could be described as when the church is taken, hence no more mentioned.

  4. Great article Nelson! The saints after the 6th seal are not referred to as the church either, but clearly they are “church”….I wonder how our pre-trib friends would classify them?

    1. as I look at it now, the whole of Zechariah 4 is interesting… definitely an END TIME scenario … and Two witnesses??

  5. ..and the dead in Christ shall rise first. After that we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds… 1st Resurrection.
    The dead in Christ include all of those who lived before the incarnate Jesus lived, died, rose, and ascended on earth. Also before the ‘Spirit of Truth’ was sent at Pentecost, which is the beginning of the church.
    Those who are alive and remain will be caught up…plus those in the 1st resurrection are the elect. The term elect encompasses more than the term church. The elect is used in Rev and other prophecies for this reason.
    The 1st resurrection is immediately followed by the catching up. When Jesus speaks to the 7 churches in Rev, it is the followers after he completed his mission on earth, to whom he is speaking. IMHO

    1. As you know Ken, it’s my opinion that the letters to the 7 churches have dual meaning, first to his followers thru the ages and second as a prophetic meaning for the 70th Week as detailed in Revelation Deciphered.

  6. The Lord births the Church in the place of His choosing. A true testimony in a place is birthed ,not made. A true living Body of Christ in any one location has the call of going on with the Lord but it is conditional upon obedience. The Lord allows practical issues to come upon His people and they are to come to the mind of the Lord in order to go on together. These issues deal with the heart and it is costly to go on together as a people. If they come to unanimity then the unity is preserved. In time the Lord brings another issue.
    This is why the Lord comes to each assembly in Revelation 2-3 with a challenge whether it be He has something against them and to repent or the challenge to endure,continue in love.In each place throughout history there will be those who heard what the Spirit is saying and overcome.
    The apostasy is not no longer going to”church” or not reading the bible but no longer going on with the Lord together as a people. Ichabod is the word. This and the anti-christ appearing are two events that must happen before the Lord returns. This is why the ekklesia is not seen after chapter 4.
    One can see this in the O.T. with the Ark. When the Lord was the Lord of heaven AND earth then the Ark was in it’s proper place.Only about 50 years was the Ark in it’s proper place. Thus,”we possessed it but for a short time”

      1. Tantamount to the 10 virgins parable – only some of the Church will be providing the witness. Like He told Ephesus: “repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place”. Philadelphia (brotherly love/grafted in gentiles?) and Smyrna (good figs of Jer. 24/messianic Jews?) are the only 2 of the 7 He doesn’t rebuke, so there’s something to that I think.

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