14. Rapture

One of the significant things any interpreter of the book of Revelation will notice is the abrupt shift in focus which takes place between chapters three and four. Chapters two and three, which describe “the things which are” (Rev. Rev. 1:19+), are focused entirely on the Church. Then, abruptly, chapter four opens, John ascends to heaven “in the Spirit,” and the Church is no longer mentioned until the close of the book. This shift in focus and absence of all mention of the Church would in itself be somewhat remarkable. But when it is combined with what Scripture elsewhere teaches concerning the character and destiny of the Church, it provides additional evidence that the Church will not be present on the earth during the events of Revelation Rev. 4:1+ through Revelation Rev. 19:1+, including the period of the tribulation.

Twenty-four verses in the book of Revelation refer to the church. . . . Twenty of the 24 verses refer to the church in the present church age (Rev. Rev. 1:4+, Rev. 1:11+, Rev. 1:20+; Rev. 2:1+, Rev. 2:7+, Rev. 2:8+, Rev. 2:11+, Rev. 2:12+, Rev. 2:17+, Rev. 2:18+, Rev. 2:23+, Rev. 2:29+; Rev. 3:1+, Rev. 3:6+, Rev. 3:7+, Rev. 3:13+, Rev. 3:14+, Rev. 3:22+; Rev. 22:16+, Rev. 22:17+). Two verses refer to the church in the marriage of the Lamb, which will take place in heaven , not on the earth (Rev. Rev. 19:7+, Rev. 19:8+). Two verses refer to the church in the eternal state (Rev. Rev. 21:2+, Rev. 21:9+). It is important to note that there are no references to the church on the earth in chapters 4 through 18, the chapters relating specifically to the 70th week of Daniel Dan. 9:1, including the seals, trumpets, and bowls.1

The church is mentioned 17 times in the first three chapters of Revelation, but after John (a member of the church) is called up to heaven at the beginning of chapter 4, he looks down on the events of the Tribulation, and the church is not mentioned or seen again until chapter 19, when she returns to the earth with her Bridegroom at His glorious appearing. Why? The answer is obvious: She isn’t in the Tribulation. She is raptured to be with her Lord before it begins!2

In our day, the Rapture has come under attack by many. Some think it represents the novel teachings of “defeatist Christians.” Others think it is pure fantasy. Still others seem to savor the idea of the Church going through the events of the Tribulation in order to “prove her metal” or refine her. We find it difficult to understand why there is such opposition by Christians to the idea that the bridegroom would come for His bride prior to pouring forth His wrath (John John 14:1-3)?

If the Church is to come through the tribulation judgments that are to come upon the earth, then, say it plainly, there is no blessed hope in the Bible.3

So determined, however, are many not to have this blessed hope, or even to allow others to have it, that they would rather hold that this “great and terrible day of the Lord” is our only “hope” and (!) thus be driven to interpret the “thief” [Rev. Rev. 3:3+] or Christ coming as a friend to fetch us away as he steals precious jewels. And this is done in the face of the opposite statement in 1 Thessalonians 1Th. 5:4, that day shall “not come as a thief” on the church. . . . this thief is to be watched against: but Christ is to be watched for!4

Our treatment of the subject here is not intended to be exhaustive by any means—this is a commentary on the book of Revelation, not a book on the Rapture. However, the Rapture is an important aspect of understanding the Revelation given by John and especially the nature and purpose of the Tribulation period which it describes. In what follows, we outline aspects of the Rapture which are relevant to understanding the book of Revelation and mention additional resources for further study by the interested reader.

Notes

1 Renald E. Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1995), 245.

2 Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, Charting the End Times (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2001), 108.

3 Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 77.

4 E. W. Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1984, 1935), 194.