Tag: WHEN WILL THE RAPTURE BE?

RAPTURE 11: THE TWENTY-FOUR ELDERS

DO THE 24 ELDERS IN REVELATION CHAPTER FOUR DEPICT THE CHURCH HAVING BEEN RAPTURED BEFORE THE TRIBULATION? This is one of the questions I examine in chapter 7 of my book*

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(The Four and Twenty Elders Casting their Crowns before the Divine Throne, c. 1803–5. William Blake)

Chapter 7 of my book is entitled “Multitudes In Heaven”. It examines the major scenes we read throughout Revelation in which there are large numbers of people or angels gathered. Who are they, and what is their significance? I will just excerpt the most relevant sections of chapter 7 on this blog, the first excerpt being today’s post.

THE TWENTY-FOUR ELDERS

When John is called up into heaven after Jesus dictates to him seven letters to seven churches, he sees around the throne of God (among many amazing sights) twenty-four elders, all seated on thrones. Some pre-tribulation teachers believe that these elders represent the raptured Church, or the raptured Church plus important Old Testament figures. Because the elders are there in heaven with their white robes and crowns before any of the tribulation events are described, experts see this as evidence that there will be a pre-tribulation rapture, which John, they say, had just demonstrated for us by being called into heaven.

The elders sing of redemption (5:9-10) and the NIV translates certain words in their song to ‘they’ and ‘them’, suggesting the elders are referring to the redemption of others who are not present. Pre-tribulation teachers insist that these words ought to be translated ‘we’ and ‘us’, just as they are in the King James Version, meaning that the twenty-four are actually the people who’ve been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. In other words, the redemption the elders are singing of is their own, and that of the entire Church. This scene, say the experts, signifies that the Church will be in heaven before the tribulation, because it’s described before any of the tribulation events are described, and before any of the seals of the scroll are opened.

There can be no doubt that the elders do represent the Church, because angels are not redeemed, but humans are:

…for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (5:9 KJV).

However, the observation that these elders are in heaven before the seals of the scroll are broken does not automatically prove a pre-tribulation rapture. To aid in a different way of interpreting this scene, we can ask if the seals, as they break, are setting in motion the real future events they foretell. Was John transported not only to heaven but forward in time, to witness real-time implementation of the judgments of the book? Or was he being given a prophecy; a fore-telling; a representation of the events yet to come? Was he seeing a picture; a vision of the future, rather than the real thing?

My first observation in answer to this is to recall that John had to see the entire sequence of Revelation events, or he would not be able to relate them to us. There would be no point in him being taken into heaven mid-way through the Revelation events, if it was his job to relay it all to us: he would only know half of the story, as would we. And without meaning to take this point to the absurd extreme, there would be no point in him being taken to heaven at the end of all the events for the same reason. He had to see the whole thing. The reason John was taken to heaven before any of the seals are seen to be broken is that he had to witness all the events Jesus wants us to know about.

Next, notice that when John arrives in heaven and surveys the scene, the elders are already there and settled in. They didn’t arrive at the same time as John in his ‘rapture’ (chapter 4 verses 4 and 9 to 11). Therefore, if the rapture takes all believers, living and resurrected, why did John arrive late for the party? Why are the twenty-four already sitting there like they belong, while he’s only just arrived and wondering what it’s all about? Why isn’t the entire raptured Church there, instead of just a small representation? Isn’t Jesus “the disciple whom Jesus loved”? Then why isn’t he one of the twenty-four elders? Why isn’t he sitting there on one of the thrones with a white robe and a crown on his head? Why doesn’t he say, “Oh, Hi Peter! Hi Thomas! Hello Paul-good to see you! Oh look-there’s me over there!

And why didn’t any one of the twenty-four say to John “Hey John-it’s great to see you-we’ve been waiting for you!”

The twenty-four elders are not only settled in, but they already know everything about what’s going on and proceed to tell John (5:5; 7:13-21). This seems strange since John was an original member of the Church, and one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. But on the scene he isn’t even invited to take his place with them. Surely, there should have been twenty-three elders and one empty chair for John?

The answers to all of these questions must be that these elders John sees are not the literal Church or literal Church founders or apostles, they only represent them. It isn’t literally Peter and all the others of Jesus’s inner circle sitting there. John has not traveled forward in time to see the actual, live, real-time events of the tribulation. Instead he’s watching something like an informative, inspirational documentary; a staged vision which represents the most significant aspects of the tribulation.

On top of that, The prophecies of Revelation are not all in chronological order from chapter 5 up to the end: they’re told and re-told. The story is told in some detail, then we’re taken back to see some different detail.  Some of the events and scenes and characters of the Revelation are not just of tribulation events, but they span the entire history of mankind. For example, consider the Harlot: Mystery Babylon. She’s been “riding the beast” of human history. She’s been an integral companion to the kingdoms of the world all the way along.

Some prophecies in Revelation speak of the past, and some of the future: they’re  not all events of a seven-year period. Therefore it’s not necessary to conclude that the representatives of the redeemed in heaven are, by their presence, foretelling a pre-tribulation rapture. The fact that the twenty-four only represent the Church, and that the entire Church does not seem to be present, must be significant. Why would only twenty-four Church members sing of their redemption, if the entire Church is there? Why do only twenty-four represent the Church in this scene, if all are there? Shouldn’t they all be described as being one body at this point, if the entire Church has been raptured?

Moreover, the fact that the Church is not mentioned by name in heaven is very significant evidence against the pre-tribulationist’s claim that the Church is not mentioned as being on earth in tribulation passages of Revelation. The Church is no more “mentioned” by name in heaven than it is on the earth. 

It seems most likely that this scene is speaking of the status of the Church in a history-wide sense, and of the future authority the Church will have when they reign with Christ.

*My book, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, by NICK FISHER, is available in paperback and electronic form on Amazon.

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THE RAPTURE: A SUMMARY SO FAR

At some time in the future a lot of Christians are going to wake up to a very serious reality: the preachers of the pre-tribulation rapture theory were horribly wrong…

Rays Of Light Coming Through The Clouds And Over The Mountains And ...

I’ve been excerpting my book on the rapture. But it may have been all too much for some of you, and if I’ve been far too long-winded, I apologize. This summary- a summary of  excerpts from my book published on this blog-assumes that the reader has some knowledge of the issues involved. The book gives a more complete picture* as do the excerpts.

WRATH

When Paul  wrote that we are “not appointed to wrath” in his first letter to the Thessalonians, he was not speaking of a pre-tribulation rapture, but contrasting salvation with the judgment of the wicked, who were and are “the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1-3).

Christians have been persecuted all through the centuries, including this one, but were not under God’s wrath.Get Free Stock Photos of Lightbulb with idea concept icon Online ...

The manifest wrath of God will not fall on day one of a seven year period. In Revelation the kings of the earth only acknowledge that the day of God’s wrath has come upon the opening of the sixth seal (Revelation 6:15-17).

If the four horsemen of the apocalypse are considered as an outpouring of God’s wrath at the beginning of a seven year period, this is in conflict with the view of Antichrist being a peacemaker, since the Four will take peace from the earth.

According to Paul, The Day of the Lord cannot begin until Antichrist is revealed, which will not be until three and a half years before the physical return of Christ, not seven (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4;  Revelation 13:5).

CLEAR STATEMENTS IN SCRIPTURE

The saints who are persecuted in Revelation are “blessed”. They are not cursed and are not said to have been “left behind” (Revelation 14:12-13).

Paul told the Thessalonians that they will receive reward and relief from persecution “when Christ is revealed in blazing fire”, not before (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10). This is a clear statement of the timing of the rapture, ignored by the “experts”.Get Free Stock Photos of Lightbulb with idea concept icon Online ...IS JESUS A THIEF?

Jesus’ coming like a thief relates to judgment, not rapture (Revelation 3:3).

It is “the Day of the Lord” which will come like a thief, not the rapture (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10).

Jesus’ coming will be like a thief, but Jesus is not a thief. He will not “steal” his Church. He will bring judgment suddenly and without warning, just as a thief does.

THE HOLY SPIRIT

There is no statement in Scripture saying that the Holy Spirit will be taken to heaven with the Church: it’s an assumption. The Spirit does not have to be taken to heaven in order to allow Antichrist to be revealed.

Antichrist will not be revealed until three and a half years before the end of the tribulation. Therefore, the Holy Spirit will not be “taken out of the way” until that time. With pre-tribulation reasoning that the Church will go to heaven with the Holy Spirit, this fact moves the date of the rapture to the mid point of the proposed seven year period, not the beginning of it.

The gospel will be preached during the tribulation, and there will be “saints”, but t isn’t possible for people to be saved apart from the  Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Why would God leave tribulation saints behind to fend for themselves against persecution? How could they stand firm in the faith without the Ho(y Spirit?Get Free Stock Photos of Lightbulb with idea concept icon Online ...IMMINENCE

The doctrine of imminence cannot be applied to a pre-tribulation rapture, because Jesus declared that even those who see the tribulation events will not know the day or the hour of his coming (Matthew 24:28-36).

If the tribulation saints were to see or know that the rapture had occurred, they would know which day and hour it happened, and so be able to calculate (by pre-tribulation reckoning) exactly when Jesus would return. But he has said that they will not know. This is yet another strike against pre-tribulation theory.

SEVEN YEARS?

Jesus, speaking about the signs of his coming, did not mention a seven-year period, and did not mention a “peace treaty”. The first signs Paul and Jesus gave to look out for were a falling away from the faith and the “abomination of desolation”.

REVELATION AND THE CHURCH

The word “church” is not even used to describe anyone in heaven during tribulation events.  Therefore the claim of pre-tribulation teachers that the Church is not mentioned in tribulation chapters of Revelation is of no value.

The same chapters contain no mention of any gatherings of tribulation saints on earth, or of the Jewish remnant. This also discounts the use of the lack of the word “church” in the same chapters.

The entire Revelation-including the tribulation chapters-is given “for the churches” (Revelation 22:16). The prophecies are all to be known by the churches. Why do the churches need this information if they will not be present on the earth? Why do preachers talk so much about the end times if we will not be here?

Tribulation saints are referred to as “those who hold  to the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:16; 17:6).  However, John, a first-century. born-again, Spirit-filled Christian being persecuted for his faith, described himself in exactly the same way, and the angel speaking to him described John and his contemporaries with exactly the same words (Revelation 1:9; 19:10). John commonly used the word “testimony” in his writings to first century believers. Tribulation saints will be no different to us. They may even be us.Get Free Stock Photos of Lightbulb with idea concept icon Online ...JOHN’S RAPTURE/ SAINTS

John’s calling into heaven in Revelation cannot rightly be seen as a type of the rapture, because he came back to earth as a mortal and died. John had to see all the events prophesied in order to report them, which is the reason why he went to heaven at the start of them.

Those martyred over all the centuries by the Harlot are described as “those who hold to the testimony of Jesus”. Therefore tribulation saints, described in the same terms, are no different to us. They may be us.

The word translated “saints” to describe believers in tribulation chapters is the same word translated “saints” throughout the New Testament.

SAINTS AND REMNANT

The tribulation saints “obey God’s commandments”, a fact which some have used to suggest that they are the Jewish remnant and not the Church. However, John wrote in his letters to first century born-again Christians that they were to obey God’s commandments (1 John 2:3).

The saints of Revelation cannot be simply the Jewish remnant, because both groups are seen to be separate and distinct (Revelation 12:14).

*Stay tuned for more excerpts. My book, “All Left Behind:The Case Against the Pre-Tribulation Rapture”, by Nick Fisher, is available in paperback and electronic form on Amazon:

 

 

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RAPTURE 10: THE SAINTS OF REVELATION

We read in Revelation chapters four to twenty-one about “saints” being persecuted by Antichrist, the harlot, the dragon, and unbelievers. The important question is: who are these saints? 

File:B Osma 117v.jpg(“La Femme et la Dragon” by Martinus, 1086)

“This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).

Welcome to part 10 of my latest series on the rapture* In part 9 I showed plainly that John and his contemporaries were regarded as “Those who hold to the testimony of Jesus”, just as saints in the tribulation will be. I also discussed reasons why the word “church” is not found after chapter 3 of Revelation. You can find each part of the series in the search box, for example, Rapture 4, or by using key words such as “imminence”.

THOSE WHO OBEY GOD’S COMMANDMENTS.

Pre-tribulation doctrine implies or states that the tribulation saints found in Revelation are a Jewish remnant, partly because they “obey the commandments”. It’s Jews who have to worry about commandments, says this view, while we “Church-age” believers are saved by faith. Therefore, goes the logic, the saints of Revelation are not Church-age saints, and the Church is clearly not around at that time. However, while we are indeed saved by faith, other words penned by John pop that bubble of misinterpretation. Jesus, in John’s gospel account, told his disciples that if they really loved him they would keep his commandments (John 13:34; 14:15; 15:10). And when John wrote his epistles, he clearly saw the keeping of God’s commandments as paramount:

“We know we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him”, but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3 NIV).

If we keep His commands we are demonstrating that we really have faith and really love Him.

Pre-tribulationists claim that the “saints who hold to the testimony of Jesus” aren’t Church-age believers, because we “know” the Church will be raptured before the tribulation. This, again, is circular reasoning. Instead, says PT reasoning, these saints must be some other form of saint, perhaps specially anointed Messianic Jews, or Gentile believers saved after the rapture. However, the same Greek word translated “saints” is used throughout the New Testament, and it doesn’t change after Revelation chapter 3. Saints are saints. Not only that, but the tribulation saints are “faithful to Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). How can they not be Christians? Alright, they aren’t called “Christians” by John, but then, John did not use the term “Christians” anywhere else in Revelation, including Christ’s letters to the churches (and neither did Jesus or the angel) or in his epistles, or in his gospel. Neither did he use the word “believers” anywhere, except once in his gospel.

The word “saints” is, however, used many times throughout the New Testament for Church-age believers, for example:

Paul…to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi… (Philippians 1:1-2);

On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints(not the churches) ”… in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them” (Acts 26:10);

As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda” (Acts 9:32). Notice Luke did not say that Peter “went to visit the church in Lydda”.

Antichrist will make war against “saints”, and not “churches”, because his design is not just to eradicate organized gatherings, but to wipe out believers completely:

He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them… This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints” (Revelation 13: 7a and 10b).

THE BLOOD OF THE SAINTS

Famous “last days” prophecy teachers speak and write about the “Mother of Prostitutes” of Revelation chapter 17 as though this “Harlot” had been killing saints over the two millennia since Jesus was on earth. Notice that she had been killing “saints” and not “churches”. The Harlot in the form of the corrupt church and false religion has persecuted saints down through history, say the experts. Alright, if this is true, and it is, then the “saints” killed by the Harlot over the centuries are regular Church-age believers, are they not? So what makes them any different from the “saints” mentioned in other places in Revelation, such as those who are called to patiently endure, in 14:12?

If we take the quote at the top of this post from Revelation chapter fourteen in its component parts, we can see that God’s people of all ages are no different to those being persecuted during the tribulation. There is no reason not to assume that we also are, or should be, those who patiently endure, who are saints, who obey God’s commandments, and who remain faithful to Jesus. The tribulation saints are not another breed of saints who are left behind by a rapture, but are the body of believers who happen to be alive at that time.

THE SAINTS ARE NOT THE JEWISH REMNANT OR ISRAEL

If we assume the normal evangelical view of end-times prophecy in an analysis of Revelation chapter 12, we find an interesting separation. When the dragon-Satan-is hurled to the earth from heaven, and knows that his time is short, we see that he immediately pursues “the woman” described at the beginning of the chapter. This woman is usually identified in evangelical circles as the nation of Israel, or the remnant, and I would agree with that interpretation. Verse 14 tells us that the woman is somehow transported to a place in the desert (this may just be figurative language) and miraculously protected. Then, once the dragon sees that his plan to destroy the woman is thwarted, we’re told that he turns on “the rest of her offspring-those who obey Gods commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (verse 17). So the question needs to be asked: since the woman-considered to be the Jewish remnant- is being protected in a specific location, who are these other believers who the dragon turns on?

Consider the “great multitude” from every nation, tribe, people and language standing in front of God’s throne (7:9). They’re normally believed to be people saved during the tribulation as the result if the witness of the 144,000, but one of the elders present in front of the throne gives us a different answer:

These are they who have come out of great tribulation…” (7:14).

…out of great tribulation…” Does this perhaps mean that they somehow avoided great tribulation and were raptured, or does it mean that they were right in the middle of it, being assaulted by the dragon and all his human minions? Could they not be “those who hold to the testimony of Jesus”, who the dragon turned on after failing to destroy the remnant of Israel? Could they be those mentioned in chapter 6, killed “because of the testimony they had maintained”, matching those who “held to the testimony of Jesus” and were attacked by the dragon? They are given white robes to wear-probably very much like the white robes worn by those around the throne in chapter 7. In any case, it seems that the remnant of Israel and “those who hold to the testimony of Jesus” are two distinct groups of people.

Also relevant to our study is that the scene in heaven, whether the martyrs under God’s throne in chapter 6, or the multitude in front of it in chapter 7, is actually after the fifth and sixth seals respectively. This is not a period of time before the tribulation: it’s immediately before the seventh seal, which entails very severe trumpet judgments (chapter 8). Even if those around the throne in chapter seven are rapturees and not martyrs, there’s no indication that the rapture happens before the first five or six “seal” tribulation events.

*Thanks for reading excerpt 10 of my book, “All Left Behind: The Case Against the Pre-Tribulation Rapture”. It’s available on Amazon in paperback or electronic form. However, the whole thing, re-edited (and easier to read) will eventually appear here, completely free. My older blog posts on the subject are not so complete. Part 11 will appear soon.

RAPTURE 9: JOHN’S TESTIMONY CONTINUED

Are Christian believers really going to be raptured before the troubles of the tribulation begin? That was my conviction for twenty-eight years, until I was of the mind to check if what I had believed was actually true. Here is the ninth installment of my own findings on the subject*. If you missed the first eight, you can locate them easily in the search box. This current series is numbered as above, for example, “Rapture 3”.

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THE SAINTS WHO BORE TESTIMONY TO JESUS

If it’s true that the Church is nowhere to be found on earth in the prophesies of Revelation, just who are “those who hold to the testimony of Jesus”, being persecuted by Satan and Antichrist in those chapters (Revelation 12:12; 14:12; 20:4)? People killed by the Antichrist are identified by John as “those who bore testimony to Jesus” (Revelation 12:17). And it’s important to see that this phrase is not reserved in Revelation for those being persecuted during the tribulation. The same term is also applied to the people who are commonly identified by pre-tribulation experts of today, and others, as the saints of all of Church history who have been killed by the Harlot. They were

“…those who bore testimony to Jesus (17:6).

I’ll discuss this evidence a little more next time, under the subtitle “The Blood of the Saints”

The term is even applied to John and his companions-who were first century Church-age Christians-by the angel relaying the Revelation:

I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus(19:10).

Let that sink in. Let that sink in because it’s very important. John and his brothers in the first century were described in the same words as those who will be living through the tribulation, as are those who will be persecuted by the Beast.

John, a first century, Church-age believer, also applied the term to himself at the beginning of the book, and related it to the suffering of his own persecution:

I John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the testimony of Jesus(Revelation 1:9).

Here is clear evidence of an undeniable oneness between all believers of the real Church age-including the tribulation: between all who “hold to the testimony of Jesus”. There are no second-class believers consigned to be “left behind” for the tribulation.

Similarly, John spoke of the tribulation saints “who obey God’s commandments” (Revelation 12:17 and 14:12). It’s no good describing this as a reference to law-abiding Jews or Messianic Jews as some prophecy teachers want to (though it may relate to them also) because in John’s letters-to first century Church-age believers, he used the same Greek word when writing about the importance of obeying God’s commandments (1 John 2:3-4; 1 John 3:22-24; 1 John 5:2-3; 2 John 1:5-6). True Christians of John’s century were those who obeyed God’s commandments, just as the tribulation saints will obey God’s commandments. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

WHY ARE THERE NO CHURCHES IN REVELATION 4 ONWARD?

We’re told that the Church is nowhere mentioned in the prophecies of the tribulation, and so therefore it must be absent from the world at that time. Note again, however, that the words “Church” and “churches” are not mentioned in any heavenly scenes in Revelation either, until after the tribulation. If the Church is in heaven at this time, why is it not explicitly mentioned as the “Church”?

When you read chapters 1 to 3 of Revelation you find that the word “Church” is not used in a universal sense even in those letters addressed to first-century churches. The word “church” is only used to speak of individual churches, and for the gatherings receiving letters from Jesus. So the word “Church” in its universal sense is absent from all of Revelation including the first three chapters, not just from chapter 4 on. 

The word “church” in a local sense speaks of organized gatherings of believers. Strong’s concordance defines the word translated “church” thus:

…church, congregation, assembly, a group of people gathered”).

It’s possible, considering that the prophesies of the tribulation in Revelation speak of a time of persecution of Christians, that the word “church” is absent from chapters 4 to 21 because there will be no churches. There will be no open gatherings: they will be outlawed. There may be some secret gatherings, but they will be at the risk of discovery by the anti-Christian task forces and world citizens eager to fulfill the will of Antichrist. They may even be outlawed before the tribulation, considering the direction of the “free” world at this present time.

One evidence of this from scripture is that while there will be “saints who bare testimony to Jesus” during the tribulation and the reign of Antichrist, there’s no mention of any gatherings of those saints! This alone is a significant fact. Since there will be believers, is it not powerful evidence that there is no mention of their gatherings? Similarly, while we believe that there will be a remnant of Jews, there’s not even a mention in Revelation of synagogues, but only a reference to the Jerusalem temple. This shows that either there will be no open gatherings, or that they are simply not mentioned by John or those dictating to him. This, then, easily explains why “churches” are not mentioned during the prophecies! Whatever reason there is that gatherings of “saints” or Jews in the tribulation are non-existent in Revelation after chapter 3 is the same answer to the question of why churches are absent. Instead of churches, or open gatherings of saints, there will be individuals, struggling to survive in an increasingly hostile world where they cannot congregate because of persecution and opposition.

Moreover, it’s never mentioned by the prophecy “experts” of today that John did not use the words “Church” or “churches” at all in his first or second epistles, or in his gospel, even though they were written to Christians of his day. When he did write the word “churches” he was referring to an organized gathering.

This is the same definition of “church” used by Paul and others. For example, when referring to groups of believers Paul did not always use the word “churches”. On this occasion he did:

Paul… and all the brothers with me , to the churches in Galatia” (Galatians 1:1-2).

However, Paul used the term “saints”-the word used for those who hold to the testimony of Jesus in Revelation- for individual believers, and complimented it or contrasted it with the term “churches”. In this way he was making a distinction between gatherings of believers and individuals:

To the church in Corinth…together with all the saints throughout Achaia” (2 Corinthians 1:1).

There was a “church” in Corinth, but there were “saints” throughout all Achaia.

Paul used the term “saints” many times for individual believers, which substituted nicely for the word “church”, which he didn’t use at all in this example:

To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1).

He also used the word “believers” at times, in place of “church”:

“…let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10).

*This post is an excerpt from my book “All Left Behind: The Case Against the Pre-Tribulation Rapture”, available from Amazon in paperback and electronic form. The entire book, edited and improved, will eventually be excerpted here on this blog.

RAPTURE 8: JOHN’S TESTIMONY

Welcome to this excerpt of my book on the rapture*. I want to reiterate that I am not a-millennial in my views, and I do not go along with any replacement theology. I was zealously pre-tribulational for twenty-eight years, until my eyes were opened to reality…

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The apostle John’s life was greatly blessed in many ways. And though he was, during his later life, exiled to a small island as a form of persecution, even there God blessed him enormously with the privilege of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, recorded in the last book of our Bible. As John is the one who was given the Revelation, and “the one who Jesus loved”; who wrote one of the four gospels and some incredible letters too, it seems obvious that we ought to be able to glean some clues as to the timing of the rapture from his writings. These notes are updated from previous blog posts on the subject.

IS THE CHURCH MISSING FROM REVELATION CHAPTER 4 ONWARD?

The first three chapters of Revelation contain letters to seven churches from the risen, glorified Jesus Christ. They’re initially addressed to seven individual first-century churches, but many pre-tribulation teachers and believers see these letters as also relating to later ages of the universal Church, so that one way or another they encompass the entire “Church Age”, which they say is from Pentecost to the rapture. In relation to the rapture, they insist that while the Church is spoken of in the seven letters, the words “Church” and its local version “church” are nowhere mentioned in the rest of Revelation, which covers the Tribulation. This is taken as evidence that the Church will no longer be on the earth during that time: it will be in heaven watching the events of the tribulation in safety from there. After all, why would Jesus Christ speak so openly to the churches in the first three chapters of the Revelation, and then have nothing to say about them or to them after the letters, if Church-age believers were to be in the middle of all the prophesied turmoil?

Our first remarkable observation in answer to this belief should be that the words “Church” and “churches” are not used to describe anyone in heaven during the tribulation events in Revelation either! Why do pre-trib teachers never point that out? So where is the Church? Where are the “churches”?

What’s never mentioned is that the prophesies of Revelation found in chapter 4 onward are all given to the churches-not just the first three chapters. We know this because we’re told so in the Revelation itself. After the prophesies are all given, we read:

I Jesus have sent my angel to give you this testimony FOR THE CHURCHES (Revelation 22:16).

THE ENTIRE BOOK OF REVELATION IS A TESTIMONY TO THE CHURCHES!

Jesus said that the entire book of Revelation-not just the first three chapters-is a “testimony” for the churches. A testimony is evidence; proof; a formal statement. We first hear of this “testimony” at the beginning of chapter 1, where we’re told that Jesus Christ’s revelation is concerning “what must soon take place”. Therefore the testimony includes not just the seven letters but all the following prophesies. The entire thing is, “…the testimony of Jesus Christ” (verse 2). The churches-supposedly representing the Church age only-are provided the same “testimony” as those who are martyred during the Tribulation in the rest of Revelation.

So one message is told throughout the book. There are not separate testimonies for the rapture candidates and the failures. The book is a unit, not divided in two or three parts, and is as relevant to the Church as it is to Jews or anyone converted during the Tribulation. The prophesies, says Christ himself, are for the Church, and not just for others who are “left behind”.

WAS JOHN’S TRIP TO HEAVEN A TYPE OF THE RAPTURE?

After Jesus’ letter to the church in Laodicea the book of Revelation takes a sharp turn towards a scene in heaven. John, receiving the Revelation, is called verbally up into heaven, and then taken there instantly (chapter 4:1-2).

The calling of John into heaven before any account of the prophesies is given is seen as a type of the rapture: it supposedly demonstrates what will happen to the whole Church when Jesus Christ changes us all “in the twinkling of an eye”. It’s also believed to show, since it’s a type of our own rapture, that we will be raptured before the tribulation, because John’s “rapture” occurred before any of the events of the tribulation recorded in Revelation were shown to him. The Church, according to pre-tribulation teachers, will similarly be called and taken into heaven before any tribulation events or the judgments take place.

There’s no statement that John’s trip into heaven represents the rapture of the Church-it’s just assumed that it is, because it appears to be so much like what Paul described as the rapture. However, logically speaking John had to be shown the events of the entire tribulation, otherwise he would not have been able to record them for us. If he didn’t arrive in heaven to see any of the vision until the seven bowls of wrath were being poured out, he would have missed some of the most important prophesies, and we would only have a part of the story. His vision had to begin at the beginning, and so John had to be taken up into heaven to see the beginning of the account of relevant future events. It may be just as simple as that: John’s trip to heaven at the start of tribulation prophecy makes simple logical sense, and doesn’t necessarily forecast a pre-tribulation rapture for the Church at all.

Thinking about John’s calling into heaven, I had to conclude that I would not personally want to see it as a type of the rapture, because John came back to earth as a mortal again! We don’t know that John even went to heaven physically. All we know is that when he was called into heaven he said:

At once I was in the Spirit” (verse 2).

Whether John was in heaven in the spirit or in the flesh, he returned to earth and to his mortal body. If he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have the book of Revelation. John came back to earth as a man and died. He isn’t in the world today. If his calling to heaven was a type of the rapture that the Church will experience, does that mean we will also return to earth as mortals, and die?

TESTIMONY, CHURCHES, SAINTS

The prophetic writings of John from Revelation chapter 4 on are considered to contain different terminology than the earlier chapters containing letters to the seven churches, supposedly showing that the people living in the Church age are different to those raptured before the tribulation. Is this a valid observation? I intend to show that John’s terminology is consistent throughout his writings, showing a unity of meaning. In other words, those he refers to as “saints” in Revelation are no different than those written about and alive at the time of the writing of his gospel and letters.

A careful reading of Revelation shows that there are common terms and phrases used in John’s works, both throughout Revelation, and in his other New Testament writings. For example, He used the phrase “the testimony of Jesus”, in Revelation seven times, referring to the testimony of those saints living during the tribulation, as well as using the word “testimony” separately several more times. The “saints” found in the apocalyptic chapters of Revelation are called:

…those who hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:17).

However, it’s important to recognize that the word “testimony” had also been a common theme in John’s gospel:

…one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true” (John 19:35).

This term is much more common in John’s gospel than in the other gospels. It’s also more common in his letters than in other New Testament letters, and more so than in Luke’s account of the early Church in Acts.

Interestingly, his word “testimony”, found in Revelation, is also found in two of his epistles to Church age disciples, as is the term, “God’s testimony”:

Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son…” (see 1 John 5:9-12, and 3 John 13).

Therefore, John used the same term to describe Christians living in his own time, and their message, as he did for those living through the Tribulation in Revelation.

Thanks for reading! This subject will continue no more than a week from now.

*My book, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE” by Nick Fisher, is available in paperback and on e-book from Amazon. However, in time, the entire volume will be excerpted here in this blog, re-edited, and entirely free-I’m not looking to profit from what you need to know.