Mention of the Church after Rev. 4:1

A somewhat strange “proof” that Pre-Tribulation Rapture supporters frequently bring up is that there  is no mention of the Church after Rev. 4:1. They claim the word “church” is used 18 times in Revelation, but not between Rev. 4-19 (the 70th Week of Daniel).

Robert Gromacki of the Pre-Trib. Research Center explains their position this way:

“Where is the church during the seven-year Tribulation, as outlined in Revelation 4-19? If posttribulationism were correct, you would expect to see the church mentioned as being on earth during this time. However, that is not the picture one sees in Revelation 4-19. This writer demonstrates through investigating many of the details of Revelation 4-19 that the church is pictured in heaven with Christ, having been raptured before the Tribulation began.” – Robert Gromacki[i]

Mention of the Church after Rev. 4:1

I find it interesting that some will argue about what the Bible “doesn’t say” and ignore what it clearly teaches! In the Book of Revelation, the Greek word EKKLESIA which is translated “church” is only associated with the proper names of the Seven Churches; for example, the Church in Ephesus, the Church in Philadelphia, etc., or it refers to these same seven churches as a group. The universal Church isn’t mentioned at all by using that word: before Rev. 4 or after it. However, believers are mentioned and referred to as “bond-servants” and “saints” in Revelation, and these references are found throughout the book.

This argument by Pre-Tribulation Rapture enthusiasts is akin to reading a newspaper article about “The First Baptist Church” where the only mention of the word “church” is found in the first paragraph in regard to the name of the church: The First Baptist Church. In subsequent paragraphs, the newspaper reporter mentions “parishioners, members, and Baptists.” It would be terribly wrong to read this article and claim the Church disbanded after the first paragraph because the word “church” didn’t appear in it after that point. This ignores the obvious intention of the writer that the “parishioners, members, and Baptists” are the church! Yet this is exactly what this Pre-Tribulation Rapture argument does; it places emphasis on the specific names of seven churches and ignores all the references to the members of the Church.

The word “church” (EKKLESIA) is not commonly used in the New Testament to refer to the universal Church. For instance, it is not found in 1 Thess. 4:16-17, the most famous Rapture passage of all. Does this mean the Church is not raptured? Obviously, it does not. The word “church” is completely absent from the books of Mark, Luke, John, 2 Timothy, Titus, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, and Jude.  Are these books not to apply to the Church?

Finally, the word “church” is absent in the one location where we would most expect to find it: before the Throne in Heaven in Revelation 4-5. Not only is the word “Church” absent in these chapters, so are all mentions of “saints” or “bond-servants.” Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory has had to “invent” ways that the Church is present in that heavenly scene to justify its contention that the Rapture occurs in Rev. 4:1.

The Book of Revelation, however, liberally uses the term “bond-servant” to refer to the Church (and also to the Jewish remnant). The following graphic (Figure 1: “Use of ‘bond-servants’ in Revelation”) displays uses of “bond-servant”:

Citation Verse
Rev. 1:1 “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place”
Rev. 2:20 “But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.”
Rev. 7:3 “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.”
Rev. 11:18 “And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name.”
Rev. 19:2 “His judgments are true and righteous; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His bond-servants on her.”
Rev. 19:5 “And a voice came from the throne, saying, ‘Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.’”
Rev. 22:3 “There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him.”

Figure 1: Use of ‘bond-servants’ in Revelation

As can be clearly seen, the term “bond-servant” is regularly found throughout the Book. It is used of members of the Church in Thyatira (Rev. 2:20) and in terms of the martyrs who die at the hand of the Harlot (Rev. 19:2). Rev. 1:1 tells us Revelation was given to these bond-servants as well. In addition to these general uses of “bond-servant,” Revelation also makes reference to John and Moses being bond-servants (Rev. 1:1, Rev. 15:3). This implies that the bond-servants are perhaps the most faithful of Jesus’s servants.

Interestingly, no distinction is made between bond-servants depicted prior to Rev. 4 and those depicted after. If a Pre-Tribulation Rapture were to have occurred, wouldn’t it be logical to refer to those included in the Rapture by a different title than those who were not? But that is not the case.

A second title for believers is seen in the Book of Revelation; it refers to the word “saints” 12 times between Rev. 1 and Rev. 19 (the physical Second Coming). The references to “saints” do not discriminate on the location of the saints (heaven or earth) based on the position of the reference in Revelation either.

Are some of these “saints” and “bond-servants” those who come to faith in Jesus after the beginning of the 70th Week as we are told by Pre-Tribulation Rapture proponents? Yes, undoubtedly some are. However, a question that must be asked in relation to those coming to faith during this period is, “if these multitudes truly are ‘Tribulation’ saints as Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory claims, why do they do so only to face certain death at the hands of the Antichrist?” Isn’t more likely that only a trickle of new believers will come to faith, and that the vast majority of the “saints” in Revelation are those who believe prior to the rise of Antichrist?

Let’s look at two uses of the word “saints.” This first use of “saints” is always thought to include the Church raptured prior to the 70th Week by Pre-Tribulation Rapture exponents:

Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Rev. 19:7-8)

The second example is never thought to include the Church by these same exponents:

If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, . . . the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. (Rev. 14:9, 11-12)

Summary

Although, this simple evaluation doesn’t disprove the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, it shows this extremely common “proof” in favor of it (probably the most common) is meaningless and silly.

Hopefully this exercise will equip you to answer this claim. I’d keep in mind these points:

  • The word “Church” only appears in Revelation in regard to proper names or in reference to the Seven Churches, not to the universal church.
  • Christians are referred to as “saints” and “bond-servants” and these terms appear throughout the book (before the 70th Week, during it, and after it).
  • The single most likely spot to see mention of the “Church”, “saints”, or “bond-servants” if there will be a Pre-Trib Rapture is in Rev. 4-5 as Jesus prepares to open the Seven Sealed Scroll. Yet these words are conspicuously absent there. Ask them why the Church is not “always with the Lord” if the Rapture happens Pre-Trib.

 

[i] “Where is the Church in Rev. 4-19,” Pre-Trib. Research Center, last modified: unknown, accessed April 8, 2016, http://www.pre-trib.org/articles/view/where-is-church-in-revelation-4-19

29 thoughts on “Mention of the Church after Rev. 4:1”

  1. Nelson, when I had been searching about the truth of the “rapture” before I came across this site, I remembered this and it stayed with me all this time to confirm what you have been teaching.

  2. You must be one of the Bridesmaids whose lamp is out of oil (holy spirit) and you will miss it when the Bridegroom comes. You may be one of the Bridesmaids who miss His coming and possibly will go through the tribulation.

  3. This past sunday the Catholic Church scripture reading was about the stoning of Stephen by the fundamentalist Jews with Saul of Tarsus overseeing the event. IMO this story is the perfect great tribulation example for believers…the elect. Stephen sees Jesus in heaven next to the the throne of God the Father and asks to forgive the people stoning him, and asks God to receive his Spirit. Then he dies from the brutality.

    The Bible is telling us that the persecution and death of Stephen is the example for end times believers to hope for. Stephen did not ask God to rapture him away and save him from the agony, and Jesus watched in approval of the faith and strength of Stephen’s example. We today should pray for the Spirit to give us such strength.

  4. I agree with all of your points and interpretation of these scriptures, Nelson.
    My purpose for the comment was to show how the pre trib rapture teaching is so obviously false and ill conceived to those who believe in the authenticity of the bible and inerrant word of God through scripture.

    1. True. I think emotions play a role on why the Pre-Trib position persists. Pastors don’t want to teach their parishioners to prepare for the 70th Week for fear of losing church-goers. It is a terrible situation.

  5. First of all the word rapture, as we all know, was injected into scripture. Doing so constitutes adding words to this book, and so condemned by Jesus Christ in His Revelation to John. The modern church today is guilty of integrating this false doctrine into it’s own teachings by using the word rapture itself to argue against it. This has created a dichotomy of rapture theories.

    Secondly, applying the word tribulation to the entire seventieth week of Daniel’s prophecy is also a false teaching. Jesus refers to the first half of the 70th week as “the beginning of sorrows”. He refers to the second half as ” a great tribulation like never before”. So only the second half is the great tribulation.

    IMO false doctrines and teachings identify themselves by the very words they choose to use. Jesus is the Word, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. There is nothing but truth in his words. And through his words we find the way to eternal life. We should only use words that he spoke, and in the manner that he spoke them. He didn’t utter the word rapture and he refers to the AC reign as “a great tribulation” and the “time of Jacob’s trouble”.

    The problem with the church today, all denominations, is the words of God (the Bible) have been taken out of context, challenged, and skewed to deceive even the very elect, if the time is not shortened.
    Jesus refers to this event as the First Resurrection in Revelation 20: 4-6. So why don’t all christians today? In spite of the bad press that Catholics get, this whole rapture argument isn’t a concern.
    All believers should be watching and waiting for his second coming identified by “the first resurrection” , the dead will rise first and those who are alive will be changed and meet the Lord in the air. Very simple…;.the first resurrection. No pre trib, mid trib, post trib, pre wrath etc.

    Now we can easily identify in scripture when the First Resurrection doesn’t occur, and it does not occur before or during the “time of sorrows”.

    1. You are right about both words you mention Ken. There is no “Tribulation” it is the 70th Week of Daniel. There is no word “Rapture,” the word is HARPAZO which is a violent, visible, and sudden snatching away as in a hostage rescue. You are not correct (IMO) about the Great Tribulation. Jesus said there will “be” great tribulation not that the entire last 3 1/2 years is the Great Tribulation. In fact, he said just the opposite. Jesus said “Those days” (what days? the 1260 days of Daniel’s Time, Times and 1/2 a Time) will be shortened. So Jesus directly tells us the Great Tribulation will be less than 1260 days. It will be cut short. Why doesn’t Daniel tell us this? Because the Antichrist will persecute the Jews for the full 1260 days. This was new revelation for Christians only. They will be rescued by the HARPAZO that occurs after the Sixth Seal of Revelation when the dead in Christ will rise first.

      Did you know that Matt 24:30-31 is NOT the Second Coming? It is the HARPAZO. We can prove that by comparing Matt. 24 to Rev. 6-9. The signs of Jesus’s coming in Matt. 24 are the same as the first six seals of Revelation. But notice what Jesus did NOT give as signs: the Trumpet and Bowl Judgments. Why not? Either he intentionally misled the Church by not listing such incredible judgments as signs OR what is correct IMO: his coming, his PARSOUSIA precedes the Trumpet and Bowl Judgments.

      The great error of the Church is not the use of words like “Rapture” in my mind, but mistaking Matt. 24:30-31 for the Second Coming and Armageddon. 99.99% of the Church has made this mistake IMO.

  6. Hi Janae,

    About your friend’s comment that “no one knows the day or hour”…

    Jesus actually said, “No one knows about THAT day or hour…” (Matthew 24:36) — grammatically, the word “that” must refer back to the day He was just describing in the preceding verses. And according to verse 29 “that day” is clearly “Immediately AFTER the distress [tribulation] of those days” — not before, as the PreTribbers would have us believe…

  7. For my part, I understand post-trib as being at the end of the Tribulation and Great Trib (by whatever terms), and before God’s Wrath is poured out against His enemies and those of His people. God’s wrath is a category all its own, and the saints are saved from it.

    1. Yes, Howard, that is my opinion as well. However, those that claim to be Post-Trib Rapture believers, (for the most part) assume that the Church will be protected through the Wrath not protected by being removed.

  8. Yes, I did notice that this person threw out a 15 second “proof” for the pre-trib rapture. He thinks that people who spend a lot of time studying prophecy are a little crazy, and often points to all of the times in history when people have cried wolf and sounded false alarms. He also doesn’t believe there is any way for people to truly be able to understand the meanings of some of the prophetic passages, and says that anyone who claims to have new insight or understanding is twisting things. I’m really looking forward to finding out more about your mystery project.

    1. Part of the Pre-Trib’s main doctrine is the theory of Imminence. Imminence teaches that no prophecy needs to be fulfilled prior to the Rapture. There is a great deal of danger in that kind of thinking as it eliminates 25% of the bible from any relevance to modern life. Some people are locked into their way of thinking. However, it is always worth having a 15 second comeback’s of your own that answer their “sound-bite” and then up the ante with a 10 second question they can’t answer that gets them thinking.

  9. I attended a service with at a megachurch over the weekend, where the pastor preached on his belief in a pre-trib rapture. After the service, I told the person I was with about some of the things I had learned about a post-trib or pre-wrath rapture. This person shot down what I said and told me that a pre-trib rapture is most likely, because the Bible says that no one knows the day or hour when Christ will return – meaning that He could come at any time. It seems like so many people already have their minds made up and aren’t open to hearing differing points of view on this.

    1. Thank you for sharing that Janae. You are correct that many people are NOT open to differing opinions for emotional reasons. From a pastor or teacher’s perspective, if he admits he was wrong, a lifetime of teaching may be negated. For parishioners, fear of facing the 70th Week precludes many from even considering another point of view. Also reverence for many of their Christian “heroes” precludes other views.

      Did you notice that the other person threw out a 15 second “proof” for the Pre-Trib. Rapture? It was a “sound-byte” not a proof. The Church not being mentioned in Revelation after Rev. 4:1 is another of these “sound-bytes.” They sound good, but underneath they have no substance, but right now I can tell that you (and the vast majority of other Pre-Wrath believers) feel ill-equipted to answer the Pre-Tribber with an equally quick 15 second “sound-byte” of your own to at least establish grounds for sparking interest in the Pre-Tribber.

      That what has me so excited about the “mystery” project I mentioned to Ken. It will fill that needed gap.

    2. Oh, BTW, Janae, the reason that the Pre-Trib/Post-Trib argument goes nowhere is BOTH concepts are incorrect. So if you’re arguing from a Post-Trib position you are giving the other person plenty of ammunition to continue in their mistaken idea. I recommend presenting the Pre-Wrath position. Hopefully this new mystery project will empower you and the rest of our readers to effectively answers sound-bites like the one you told us about.

  10. The word church, according to dictionaries today, refers mostly to the christians. If the Jews would have accepted Jesus as Messiah, and heard the words of the Prophets, He would have been made their King. And all of the gentiles that began to follow Him would have given unity to them and many, cultures and civilizations would have grown.
    So there would have been no need for the word Church, because all would have been in unity. The point is that God does not look at the Church above the Jews, or vice versa. The Jews were the chosen due to the exact DNA and bloodline to Adam. But to God, biological, spiritual, and the Soul are the same throughout humanity. We all eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But we all know that there are two deaths; the first being the body, and the second being the soul. I believe the spirit returns to God because it contains the breath of Life. The Bible is the book with the facts of everlasting Life.

  11. Rev 20:4-6 clearly refers to the believers in Jesus ruling and reigning with Him for 1000 years: this is also a reference to the church, the Bride of the Lamb.

  12. I only know that we know in part and we prophecy in part….And we see through a glass darkly. While it is expedient for discussion and meditation, we really won’t know the whole of it until that day…what we believe we know for certain will not alter the actual plan of the mapped design…for me, that is one of the splendors awaiting us.

  13. Just this week both Jack VanImpe and David Jeremiah both taught the “Church” is gone (raptured) in Rev 4. Sad! They have not studied and laid out the entire Bible in chronological order. The blind are leading the blind. This has so upset me, but G-d will have His remnant. G-d said in Dan we would do exploits and lead many to righteousness, but I sure don’t see this on any large scale, at least so far. Hope that changes. Good article, Nelson!

  14. The term “The saints” is used in almost every chapter. Saints don’t take the mark ….saints have patience. …saints will be killed.

    Rev 12. The devil
    Goes after those who have the testimony of Jesus Christ after Israel flees for 3 1/2 years

    Rev 13 saints don’t take the mark

    Rev 14 starts the last 3 1/2 uears again
    Saints do not take the mark

  15. Yes!
    Also, even if you want to apply “church” generally only to the 7 churches, I point out Rev. 11:4. Since we are told by Jesus “the seven lampstands are the seven churches”, how are there 2 of them in chapter 11?

  16. The word “churches” also appears in Revelation 22:16 (“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony FOR THE CHURCHES…”). Incredible how Pre-Tribbers can say most of Revelation is not for the churches when Jesus clearly says it is.

    1. The verse you are referencing is a summary statement from Jesus to the church in asia minor; who were the original recipients of the book of Revelation. This is not part of the chronological order of things, so using this verse in your argument holds no merit.

      1. Thanks for your comment Michael. I don’t know if you are replying to Pastor Steve Muller or myself.

        If you are replying to Steve, the verse he quotes is from Matthew and was give to the disciples.
        If you are replying to me, hang on to your hat, you are about to go for a ride. The very next article is going to begin to open up a new understanding to the Church that the Letters to the Seven Churches in Rev. 2-3 are not historic letters to Churches in Asia minor but rather prophetic letters to the Church of Jesus Christ as it endures and overcomes the 70th Week of Daniel. These “bookend phrases” are part (but not all) of that understanding.

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