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by James Lush, Research Paper submitted to Dr. Dave Barker,London Baptist Seminary, February, 1991


As the panorama of God's Word sweeps to it's final conclusion we come to the last book of the Bible, Revelation, a stunning and powerful affirmation of the sovereignty of our mighty and glorious God as he unleashes his judgment and wrath upon a sinful world. The problem that confronts us is whether His beloved church will experience His wrath or whether God in His mercy will somehow supernaturally spare the church from the tribulation period. One of the major problems is the question of the rapture in relation to the book of Revelation. Can a pre-tribulation rapture position be defended entirely from the Book of Revelation?

Statement of the Purpose

It is the purpose of this paper to evaluate briefly those matters that pertain to this problem through textual analysis. There are those who state that if there is a pre-tribulational rapture of the church it ought to be stated clearly in the Book of Revelation. Although there is much support from the whole of scripture to prove the return of Christ for His church is prior to the tribulation period, it is the attempt of this paper to present scriptural evidence and argument solely from the Book of Revelation to prove that the rapture does indeed occur prior to the tribulation period, a time of woe and distress in which God will execute His justice throughout the world.


As stated earlier, there is much support throughout the Bible for a pre-tribulation rapture. There are several solid biblical arguments as found in the Book of Revelation which support the rapture of the church prior to the tribulation period.

Freedom from Divine Wrath

This promise is contained in Revelation 3:10. No verse can completely establish the relationship of the rapture to the tribulation, but this one comes close. Without doubt this is the most debated verse in the rapture argument. There can be no disagreement that the verse promises protection and freedom to the church. Both post-tribulationists and pre-tribulationists agree that this passage is related to the rapture. The question that divides the two sides is the nature of the protection. Post-tribulationists have argued that the word from which is the translation of the greek preposition ek, means "out of the midst" instead of simply "from". Pentecost (1958: 216) states that when the verb is used with en it means "by guarding to cause one to escape in safey out of." Since the preposition ek is used here it would indicate that the apostle John is promising removal from the sphere of testing, not a preservation through it.

This is further substantiated by the use of the words, "the hour." The Lord will not only guard His church from the testings that are to come upon the earth but will keep them from the very hour itself, when His wrath will be poured out. It is clear that the verse clearly promises that they will be exempt from His wrath at a specific time. Jesus is talking about a well known period of distress and trouble. This was the tribulation period. The promise is a preservation outside of a literal time period. It is this combination of terms that has led pre-tribulationists to argue that the church cannot be in this period. Ryrie (1953: 101) makes this point, "It is impossible to conceive of being in the same location where something is happening and being exempt from the time of the happening."

Also the fact that the church is removed from this period is further supported by the two qualifying phrases, "which is about to come upon the whole earth" and "to test those that dwell upon the earth." The hour of this immense trial is definately universal and not some isolated event (cf. Rev. 2:10). Thus if the wrath of God is falling everywhere, it is extremely difficult to see how preservation could be any other means than through God's supernatural intervention and removal of His church, which we know as the rapture.

The Absence of the Church

While individual passages may be debated and their relative worth and merit weighed in determining a pre-tribulational or post-tribulational position. The conclusions we draw from them may not always be clear. However there is one conclusion we can draw from scriptural passages from the Book of Revelation. The main problem with the Book of Revelation is that there is no mention of the rapture of the church from Revelation chapter 4 through chapter 18. One would think that a book presenting such impressive detail concerning the events leading up to the second coming of Christ would tell of such a glorious happening for His beloved church. When all is said and done and they have placed their evidence and argument on the scale of reasoning, there is really no way to explain the total absence of any mention of either the universal church or for that matter any local church in a detailed account such as this pertaining to the end times. One can not believe that the Holy Spirit who so omnisciently superintended the writing of his scripture would deliberately or perish the thought, accidentally omit any reference to the church and its glorious rapture.

Some have argued that the absence of any mention of the church in Revelation 4 through 18 is offset by the fact that it does not mention the church as actually being in heaven. This of course hangs on the question as to whether the twenty-four elders represent the church. The argument for this will be discussed later. For now though would it not seem logical that if the church is to be mentioned as actually being in the tribulation, reference to it would be found in these chapters. It is not!

The Church in Heaven

There is some indication that the church is indeed already in heaven. The Book of Revelation makes reference to elders and to those that dwell in heaven and also to the bride that is clothed in white linen. These references seem to imply that the church is already in heaven. How can the church be in heaven before the return of the Lord? By implication we conclude that He has raptured the church before the tribulation.

One of the passages debated in the argument is the significance of the twenty-four elders in Revelation 4:4 and 5:8-10. There are seveal proofs that the twenty-four elders represent the church age saints.

1. The crown (gk: stephanos) is for a victor only. This refers to the "overcomer", cf.2:3. Angels are not crowned nor is Israel.

2. Angels are not judges until the end of the tribulation period. This verse implies that they have already been judged.

3. They are given white robes - cf. Rev. 3:5; 19:8. Not likey angels but church age saints judges and clothed in His righeousness

4. The term elder is not usually associated with angels

5. Relevant and critical evidence is found in the song of the twenty-four elders in 5:9,10. The debated terms are "us" and "we shall reign". Some manuscripts have "them" and "they shall reign." This definitely pertains to the church and the blood washed saints.

6. Angels are not seated on thrones which speaks of dignity and ascertained authority from Christ.

Pentecost (1958:209) remarks that the above arguments prove, "Since they are seen to be resurrected, in heaven, judged, rewarded, enthroned at the beginning of the 70th week, it is concluded that the church must have been raptured before the 70th week occurs." Another proof that the church is in heaven is found in the following texts, Revelation 13:6; 19:7,8,14. Both these passages give us a picture of heaven before the Lord returns to earth. In both passages reference is made to those who "dwell in heaven" and to the fact that they are "clothed in white linen." This speaks of the righteousness of the saints and to the fact that they are already in heaven prior to the Lord's return as spoken in Revelation 19:11.

The Witness of Jehovah

If the church was never raptured prior to the tribulation period as many would argue, then any individual who is saved is saved to a position into the body of Christ as indicated in various scripture passages, Colossians 1:26-29; 3:11; Ephesians 2:14-22. During the tribulation period the church as to be absent because out of the saved remnant of Israel God commissions and seals 144,000 Jews, 12,000 from each tribe according to Revelation 7:14. The fact that God is again dealing with Israel and sending them out as emissaries of His saving grace to the nations as opposed to the blood bought children of the church indicates that God is no longer dealing with the church. Therefore we can conclude that the church must no longer be on the earth and has been raptured and taken home to heaven.

The Rapture and the Second Coming

Those individuals who hold to a pre-millenial return of Christ find in the scriptures pertaining to His second coming as mentioned in Revelation 19:11 a logical, ordered sequence of events describing the major aspects of the second coming and its implied results. It is interesting that throughout Revelation 19:11-16 there is not a single mention of translation or resurrection in connection with the second coming of Christ. The chronology of events simply falls into place as the Lord returns, followed by a mass of armies engaged in world conflict, followed by mass death and singular victory, followed by the beast and false prophet being captured and cast into the lake of fire. In chapter 20 the events continue with the binding of Satan and the introduction to the millenium with the resurrection of the tribulation saints. There is no mention of any translation of living saints in any of the facts that the Holy Spirit penned with the apostle's hand in chapters 19 or 20.

Also the resurrection spoken of in Revelation 20:4-5 occurs not at the time of the second coming but after. This resurrection is limited to those who have died during the tribulation. This supports the other scriptural evidence that the rest of the righteous dead who have died before were raised earlier at the time of the time of the rapture (cf: 1 Thess. 4:15-18)

When one considers the enormous amount of evidence concerning the most detailed account of he second coming of Christ, there is not the slightest mention of a resurrection or translation. The rapture if it was to occur here as in a post tribulational position is totally missing in the story of Christ's second coming. There is no way that the Holy Spirit would have excluded the translation of the saints if it was meant to be a part of the wonderful event. Revelation 19-20 presents a major hurdle to those who oppose a pre-tribulationist position. They have no scriptural proof for a post-tribulationist rapture in the very scriptures that surely would have made mention of it.

The Necessity of an Interval Between the Rapture and the Second Coming

Various reasons have been put forth as to the necessity of an interval between the rapture and the second coming of our Lord. The saints must be rewarded, His bride must be gowned in her robe of righteousness and the distinction must be made between Christ coming for His saints ad His coming with His saints. Those who oppose the pre-tribulationist view simply say that all the above can be harmonized into one single but very complex event.

However there is one aspect to the argument that cannot be shrugged off so easily. IT points up to the incompatibility between premillenialism and the post-tribulationist viewpoint. There must be a necessity of an interval between the rapture and the second coming so that some saints can be saved to in into the millenium in non-glorified bodies. To the post-tribulationist the rapture and the second coming are simply aspects of the same event. The righteous believer who is lucky enough to have survived the tribulation and all of the terrible woes and is alive at Christ's second coming will be raptured and thus glorified to be with his Lord forever. They will go into the millenial kingdom with those have have been resurrected at Christ's return. The wicked will be prevented from entering the Kingdom and bound over for judgment. It is an interesting and glorious fact that only at that time will the earth be populated with true believers who will enter the millenial kingdom at it's start. What a grand and glorious day that will be! Yet it is only the beginning of glorious things for those who love and trust Christ.

The only problem that remains is the answer to the following question which is indeed puzzling? If all the righteous are glorified according to the post-tribulationist position and the wicked are excluded from entering the kingdom, where do the people in the non-glorified bodies come from to populate the millenium as well as join Satan in his final revolt 1,000 years later. Premillenialists all agree that thre are wicked in the Kingdom. The question is how do the wicked get there? There are three lines of evidence that point to the fact that the wicked will never enter the Kingdom. The scriptures describe terrible judgment that will precede the millenium. Secondly. there are passages that speak about the wicked not escaping judgment and God's wrath on the terrible Day of the Lord at Christ's return. Thirdly, there is definite scriptural requirements that must be met before anyone can pass through the heavenly turnstile into the Kingdom. Jesus made mention of this requirement when He spoke to Nicodemus and said, "Ye must be born gain," and "no man can enter into the kingdom of God except he be born from above."

Is this not also a major problem for those who hold the pretribulationist position? Not really! What we need to do is to distinguish the conditions that occur at the start of the kingdom and what happens throughout. There is no question that only the righteous will enter the kingdom but they will possess both glorifed and non-glorified bodies. The glorified will be the raptures saints and the non-glorified bill be the saints that have been spared as they come forth from the tribulation period. The Book of Revelation talks about those that came from great tribulation from every nation, tongue and tribe. It is this group of people, the saints from the tribulation period who will still be in their non-glorified bodies that will both procreate and populate the millenial kingdom. 1,000 years later Satan will find enough of their children who will in conjnction with him rebel against Christ and His rule on earth. Someone once said, "The heart of the human problem is the problem with the human heart." The rebellion at the end of the millenium will finally testify to the wickedness of man.

Therefore when you consider all of the above, one can only conclude that there must have been some interval between the rapture of the church in order to have glorified bodies and the second coming of Christ. Granted this argument does not establish a solid argument for a pretribulationist rapture and it could be even used for a mid-tribulationist viewpoint but it does indicated that there must be a separation of the rapture from the second advent so that people with natural bodies can be saved and populate the millenial kingdom. The mid-tribulationist could use this evidence also as stated earlier but it is an appropriate argument to surely demonstrate the total incompatibility of the post-tribulationist view with premillenialism. Plus if we couple the other evidence as presented with the above view we need not be threatened with the mid-tribulationist viewpoint.


Having evaluated some evidence from the Book of Revelation on the rapture and this paper has not been a thorough exegesis but simply a textual analysis and overview this writer is persuaded that the evidence as presented from the Book of Revelation coupled with other passages throughout the Bible teach a pre-tribulational rapture of the church. It is indeed a comfort to know that the same grace that saved us, and keeps us will also spare us from His wrath to come. Like all doctrinal issues, the rapture is an area that is extremely divisive. While we all might wish that everyone would be attuned to our own view, it is not possible in this world of conflicting sinners nor would it be a pleasant world to live in if we all ascribed to the same viewpoint on every issue. But like the Apostle John we all can shout with joy, "even so come Lord Jesus", for on that great and glorious day we surely will indeed be of the same mind

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