Biblical Eschatology

A Biblical study of eschatology and the pre-tribulational & post-tribulational rapture views of the end times.

The Church Not Found In Revelation

With the exception of Revelation 22:16, after Revelation chapter four the word Church (ἐκκλησία) is never found again in the book. In Revelation 22:16, it is merely speaking of the angels testifying to these things for the sake of the Churches.

In Thomas Ices book, When the Trumpet Sounds, in chapter 17 Robert Gromacki states:

The words "church" or "churches," so prominent in chapters 1-3, do not appear again in the book until the last chapter (22:16). The singular "church" and the plural "churches" together occur 19 times in the first three chapters.
He goes on to state, "there is a strange silence of the term in chapters 4-19." (Page 355). However, this argument is extremely biased. Many of the scenes take place in heaven, and the word Church (ἐκκλησία) isn't used there either! If we follow the "Church not found" argument to it's logical conclusion, then the Church is not in heaven, because it doesn't specifically say the Church is in heaven. So should we assume that those in the Church don't have eternal life? If we conclude the Church is neither in heaven or on earth, are we to conclude that the Church is in hell? Obviously, this is an absurd conclusion, but a logical one if we derive our theology from Biblical silence. Any argument based on silence is both flawed and dangerous. Based on silence, we can make the Bible say whatever we want it to say.

Interestingly enough, guess what is missing in every rapture passage? THE CHURCH (ἐκκλησία)! The word Church isn't found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:12-58; or Titus 2:13. So should we conclude the Church never gets raptured? I guess that causes a bit of a problem for the Church. In fact, the word Church (ἐκκλησία) does not appear anywhere in the entire book of Titus.

Revelation 19:7-9 NET
7Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory, because the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8She was permitted to be dressed in bright, clean, fine linen" (for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints). 9Then the angel said to me, "Write the following: Blessed are those who are invited to the banquet at the wedding celebration of the Lamb!" He also said to me, "These are the true words of God."
In Revelation 19:7-9, it states that it is the saints that take part in the marriage super of the Lamb. Since John called these believers Saints, then we know this can't refer to the Church, right? This is where pick and choose theology leads us!
Revelation 1:10-13, 20 NET
10I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day when I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11saying: "Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches—to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea." 12I turned to see whose voice was speaking to me, and when I did so, I saw seven golden lampstands (λυχνίας, lychnia), 13and in the midst of the lampstands (λυχνιῶν, lychnia) was one like a son of man. He was dressed in a robe extending down to his feet, and he wore a wide golden belt around his chest. 20The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and the seven golden lampstands (λυχνίας, lychnia) is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands ( λυχνίαι, lychnia) are the seven churches.

The book of Revelation is extremely cryptic. Anyone that denies this is not taking the Bible literally! One of the answer keys is Revelation 1:20, which states that "the seven lampstands (λυχνίαι, lychnia) are the seven churches." Therefore, we know that every time lampstand (λυχνία, lychnia) is used, John is talking about a Church or Churches.

Jesus says that He, "walks among the seven golden lampstands" (Revelation 2:1). He then uses the same verbiage in 2:5.
Revelation 2:1 NET
"To the angel of the church in Ephesus, write the following: "This is the solemn pronouncement of the one who has a firm grasp on the seven stars in his right hand—the one who walks among the seven golden lampstands (λυχνιῶν, lychnia):
Revelation 2:5 NET
Therefore, remember from what high state you have fallen and repent! Do the deeds you did at the first; if not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand (λυχνίαν, lychnia) from its place—that is, if you do not repent.
In a video, Pretribulationist Andy Woods stated,
"We also know that when the Church is ever mentioned in the book of Revelation and the word Church isn't even used; but sometimes symbols of the Church are used. The seven lampstands Revelation 1:20. Where do we find those lamps and lampstands in that final section of the book of Revelation? Well Revelation 4:5 puts them in heaven, not the earth." 55:00 (

As Dr. Woods points out, in Revelation 1:20, Jesus clearly identifies "the seven lampstands (λυχνίας, lychnia) are the seven churches." But this assertion by Dr. Woods actually proves post-trib! After Revelation 2:5, the only other time you see the Greek word λυχνία (lychnia) is Revelation 11:4, where John states that the two witnesses "are the two olive trees and the two lampstands λυχνίαι (lychnia) that stand before the Lord of the earth" (ESV). Since as pre-tribulationist Andy Woods points out, λυχνία (lychnia) equals Church, Revelation 11:4 disproves pre-trib, and proves the Church is on earth during the tribulation.

Dr. Woods then used this information to try to prove a pre-trib rapture, arguing that the lamps (lampas) in Revelation 4:5 are the same as the lampstands (λυχνίαι, lychnia) found in Revelation 1:13, and that both represented the Church. He argued that since Revelation 4:5 is a scene in heaven, this proves the Church is in heaven. Dr. Woods arrived at that conclusion based on translations such as the NASB, which state, "And there were seven lamps λαμπάδες (lampas) of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God." However, the word used in Revelation 4:5, λαμπάς (lampas), is not the same as the Greek word used in Revelation 1:20, λυχνία (lychnia). Additionally, Jesus defines these lamps (λαμπάς, lampas) as the "seven Spirits of God." Therefore, we must conclude the λυχνία (lychnia) and the λαμπάς (lampas) do not have the same figurative meaning, especially since Jesus defines the λαμπάς (lampas) as the "Spirits of God." In fact, if this is the Church, it would disprove pre-trib, because if the rapture occurred the Christians should be in glorified bodies in heaven, they shouldn't be seen as spirits.

In Revelation 1:20, Jesus clearly states λυχνία (lychnia) equals churches. However in Revelation 4:5, it says this other word, λαμπάς (lampas) equals the seven Spirits of God. Spirits can have a variety of meanings, and is probably a reference to the seven angels who are the ones who take action to set in motion each event or series of events. The only other appearance of λαμπάς (lampas) is in Revelation 8:10, "Then the third angel blew his trumpet, and a huge star burning like a torch λαμπάς (lampas) fell from the sky; it landed on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water" (NET). Now unless we are to believe the Church is thrown down to the earth from heaven and lands in the waters and turn the water biter and kills people (verse 11), then I highly doubt λαμπάς (lampas) refers to the Church. Although if it does, Revelation 8:10 would be yet another reference to the Church on the earth during the tribulation.

In Revelation 11:3 we read about the two witnesses, but notice what Jesus calls them. "These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands (λυχνίαι, lychnia) that stand before the Lord of the earth" (Revelation 11:4). This proves without a shadow of a doubt, that based on the translation key given to us by Jesus in Revelation 1:13, where Jesus stated that "the seven lampstands (λυχνίαι, lychnia) are the seven churches." Therefore, Revelation 11:4 proves that the Church is still on earth during the tribulation, and that the two witnesses are figures of two Churches.

2 Corinthians 5:6, 8 NET
6 Therefore we are always full of courage, and we know that as long as we are alive here on earth we are absent from the Lord— 8Thus we are full of courage and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
When the resurrection of the righteous occurs, all believers will receive their final glorified body, which will probably be similar to that of Jesus' after he rose from the dead. However, until then, when a Christian dies and their soul goes to heaven, are they given an intermediate body or are the left in a ghost like state?

I would contend that when a believer dies, they receive an intermediate body, which in my opinion, is similar to our current body. We will have arms and legs, and can talk, etc... All saints who are seen in heaven are shown in ways that would disprove that they are just ghosts.

For instance, in the parable of Lazarus, even the lost rich man in hades had fingers, a tongue, and could drink water; assuming the passage was not purely figurative.
Luke 16:24 NET
So he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue because I am in anguish in this fire.'
In Revelation 6:9-11, with the fifth seal we see the "souls of those who had been slain for the word of God" had "white robes." To wear a robe, means they must be in an intermediate body.

I believe that Revelation is not chronological and believe in Revelation 7 there is a picture of the rapture. However, if this is not the case as pre-trib would argue, then we see believers in an intermediate body wearing white robes, and using their hands and arms to wave palm branches. And it says in 7:17 that God wipes the tears from their eyes! In Revelation 7:13-14, we see these came out of the Great Tribulation.

Again in Revelation 15:2-3, we see that those who conquered the beast have harps in their hands and are singing. Once again, these must have an intermediate body.

In Revelation 14:1-3, we see the 144,000 who were redeemed who have the Father's name written on their foreheads and they were singing.

Also on the mount of transfiguration we see that Moses and Elijah had bodies and they were speaking to Jesus. They were called men (Luke 9:30-31).

Some pretribulationists claim that the "twenty-four elders" first mentioned in Revelation 4:4 are twenty-four church members, or represent the Church as a whole. Firstly, if this is just a representation or figure of the entire Church, why use the number twenty-four? Where else in the New Testament is this number significant? Second why use the word elders ( πρεσβυτέρους, presbyteros)?

An elder is either someone who is old or someone in a position of authority. For this reason, it would seem very strange for God to call every believer an elder.

Of course, since they were called elders, then obviously if they were humans, they must have been Jewish elders, because the word Church does not appear after chapter three. Bible interpretation must be consistent. If you use the argument that the Church is not on earth because that specific term is used, then you can't make a counter assertion elsewhere. Especially true when it is said, even the saints aren't the Church, even though throughout the New Testament Christians are called saints. In the New Testament Church, elders were leaders appointed in each city and is never a reference to the entire church (Titus 1:5; 1 Timothy 5:17; 1 Peter 5:5).

Even if these twenty-four elders were Christians, John seeing believers who were dead and still in an intermediate body is just as probable as if they had just been raptured.
Revelation 4:4 NET
In a circle around the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on those thrones were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white clothing and had golden crowns on their heads.
Another argument made by pre-tribulationists is that the twenty-four elders in heaven have gold crowns so they must be Christians. However, John is very specific, the elders are wearing "golden crowns" (Revelation 4:4). The problem is, the only golden crowns mentioned are in Revelation, and they only once apply to these elders. For instance, the locusts also had what looked like "crowns of gold" (Revelation 9:7); and the son of man had a "golden crown" (Revelation 14:14). We also see the rider of the white horse has a crown (Revelation 6:2); the woman had a "crown of twelve stars" (Revelation 12:1); and Jesus also has a crown of "glory and honor" (Hebrews 2:7, 9).

Looking at the crowns that Christians receive, the crowns are generally figurative. Paul said our crown and his was other saints (Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19); there is also a "crown of righteousness" (2 Timothy 4:8); and the "crown of life" (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10).

It is possible that Peter and Jesus talk about literal instead of figurative crowns; Peter talks about the "crown of glory" (1 Peter 5:4) and Jesus mentions a generic crown (Revelation 3:11), but doesn't go into further detail.

If we take the Bible literally, we can't say for certain what kind of crown we receive when we die before the rapture occurs. Obviously if we get a gold crown when we die before the rapture, it's probable that those who are raptured, who never die, also receive a literal golden crown.

To say these elders are members of the Church is based purely on speculation and is not backed by provable facts. If 2 Corinthians 5:8 is saying that our spirit goes to heaven at death, the Christians are already present in heaven, as well as the spirits of Old Testament believers. So even if these twenty-four elders were humans, there would be a better chance that these would have included Old Testament saints as well. If they were humans, ironically John the Beloved would have seen himself, I would assume.

One of the Elders actually spoke to John in Revelation 5:5. It says that "one of the elders said (λέγει ) to me." The Greek verb λέγει , is present indicative. In Koine Greek, the indicative is a mood of fact. That means the Elder was speaking to John in the present tense. Therefore, one of the elders John saw with the gold crown was now speaking to him in a literal sense. This couldn't be possible if that elder doesn't appear in heaven until after the rapture. Therefore, even if these elders are only New Testament saints, they probably are currently wearing these golden crowns.

Revelation 4:6-8 NET
6and in front of the throne was something like a sea of glass, like crystal. In the middle of the throne and around the throne were four living creatures (τέσσαρα ζῷα) full of eyes in front and in back. 7The first living creature was like a lion, the second creature like an ox, the third creature had a face like a man's, and the fourth creature looked like an eagle flying. 8Each one of the four living creatures had six wings and was full of eyes all around and inside. They never rest day or night, saying: "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God, the All-Powerful, Who was, and who is, and who is still to come!"
As we will soon see, identifying who these "four living creatures" (τὰ τέσσαρα ζῷα) is very important and relevant to the conversation. The KJV translates τὰ τέσσαρα ζῷα as four beasts, probably due to the fact that ζῷα (zōon) literally means animal. For instance, "blood of animals ζῴων (zōon)" (Hebrews 13:11); "like irrational animals ζῷα (zōon)" (2 Peter 2:12); and "irrational animals ζῷα (zōon)" (Jude 1:10). Even secular works translate ζῷον (zōon) as animal. In the work Library and Epitome written by Apollodorus, he writes, "and being pursued they changed their forms into those of animals (ζῷα, zōon)" (1.6.3).

So who are these four living creatures (beasts)? Revelation 4:7 gives these four creatures distinct characteristics. "the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight."

Although I can't be dogmatic in identifying these creatures, I believe one is a cherubim, another is possibly a seraphim, and the last two are animals; one that looks like an oxen and one that looks like a lion. It is possible that all four are types of angels.

We don't know much about seraphim, but Isaiah 6:2 stresses the flying aspect of them, and therefore they are probably the creature that looked like an eagle. The cherubim are probably the creature that had a "face of a man," based on Ezekiel 10:21-22. Obviously this is a guess based on verse 21-22, which says, "Each had four faces, and each four wings, and underneath their wings the likeness of human hands. 22And as for the likeness of their faces, they were the same faces whose appearance I had seen by the Chebar canal. Each one of them went straight forward" (ESV).

Based on 1 Kings 7:29, I believe the final two were the animals represented on the Ark of the Covenant. Verse 29 says that on the ark "and on the panels that were set in the frames were lions, oxen, and cherubim." Notice the correlation.

Cherubim do have a place of high honor and it is even possible the twenty-four elders are cherubim. They do appear around the throne based on Isaiah 37:16; Psalm 99:1; 2 Kings 19:15; 2 Samuel 6:2; etc. As will be shown shortly, it can't be understated how important it is to see that these four living creatures or beasts can not be humans.

Revelation 4:4 NET
In a circle around the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on those thrones were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white clothing and had golden crowns on their heads.
Pre-tribulationists who argue that these elders represent the Church, have other questions they have to answer. Do only twenty-four Christians take part in the rapture? Where is the rest of the Church in Revelation 4? There is no clear example of believers seen in heaven until Revelation chapter seven, and there it is said that those believers "are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation" (NET verse 14).

No where does it say who the twenty-four elders are or who they represent. Plus to take that view is to spiritualize the passage. Additionally, the twenty-four number only makes sense if this included Old Testament saints. Why would they be left out? Saying these are only New Testament saints, would be to assert that no Old Testament saint have a place of honor, and would leave out Elijah, Moses, David, etc... Doesn't that seem strange, especially since saints of all ages are currently in heaven in intermediate bodies.

Revelation 5:8-10 KJV
8And when he had taken the book, the FOUR BEASTS and FOUR AND TWENTY ELDERS fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. 9And THEY sung ( ᾄδουσιν, adō) a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed US (ἡμᾶς, egō) to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10And hast made US (ἡμᾶς, egō) unto OUR (ἡμῶν, egō) God kings and priests: and WE shall reign ( βασιλεύσομεν, basileuō) on the earth.
They KJV translation makes it seem like these elders and beasts are actually humans, who were "redeemed" (v. 9) and became "kings and priests" who "reign on the earth" (v. 10). As previously discussed these beasts or living creatures are animals and probably angels. This begs the question, when were beasts redeemed, and why would they become priests and reign on the earth? These are descriptive of things that apply to Christians and not angelic or heavenly beings. So at the outset, it appears there has to be some issue with the KJV here.

It only takes a little research to find that Revelation 5:8-10 is a text that has been debated due to several textual variants found in the Textus Receptus. However, what is not debated is that the Greek in 5:8 states, "τὰ τέσσαρα ζῷα καὶ οἱ εἴκοσι τέσσαρες πρεσβύτεροι ἔπεσαν ἐνώπιον τοῦ Ἀρνίου," which is translated by the KJV as "the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb." This is significant and the key to understanding these verses. Verse 8 contains an enumeration, which is a list of things or people. Specifically there is the "Four Beasts/Living Creatures" (τὰ τέσσαρα ζῷα) and the "twenty-four elders" (οἱ εἴκοσι τέσσαρες πρεσβύτεροι). These words are all in the nominative case and separated by the Greek word καὶ, indicating this is an enumeration.

The subject of Revelation 5:8-10, are the twenty-four elders and the four beasts/living creatures based on this enumeration and no change is indicated in later verses. Verse 9 starts with "and THEY sang" (ᾄδουσιν, adō). The "they" is embedded in the third person plural verb ᾄδουσιν. This verb is referring back to both the elders and the beasts/living creatures. It is both of these groups that are singing this song.

Revelation 5:8-10 NET
8and when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders threw (ἔπεσαν, ) themselves to the ground before the Lamb. Each of them had a harp and golden bowls full of incense (which are the prayers of the saints). 9THEY were singing (ᾄδουσιν, ) a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were killed, and at the cost of your own blood you have purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation. 10You have appointed THEM (αὐτοὺς as a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign (βασιλεύσουσιν on the earth."
Dr. Daniel Wallace, who is a professor of Greek at Dallas Theological Seminary, was on the Steering Committee and was a senior translator of the New English Translation (NET). Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) is one of the most pre-trib schools in the country. In fact, to be a professor or attend their seminary you must affirm pre-trib as well as the rest of their statement of faith. The majority of the remainder of translators were other Greek scholars and teachers from DTS and Grace Theological Seminary. Therefore, translator bias wouldn't be a very good argument here. Their translation clearly says that the KJV is incorrect, and the song they sing is not about them.

The NET Bible clearly points out, that in Revelation 5:8-10 the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures sing about them, and left themselves out when they said, "You have appointed THEM (αὐτοὺς, 3rd person) as a kingdom and priests to serve our (ἡμῶν , 1st person) God, and they will reign (βασιλεύσουσιν, 3rd person) on the earth" (v.10).

So why would the NET Bible translation vary from the KJV, and what evidence were they using?

I own the book "The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts", and in Volume 2, in Papyri 115, which is dated to around 250 AD, it does not have ἡμᾶς "US" in Revelation 5:9. On P115 the book states, "P115 aligns with A and C in its textual witness, which is generally regarded as providing the best testimony to the original text of Revelation." (Pg 163-164)

In Revelation 5:9 there is manuscript evidence against the addition of ἡμᾶς "US". For instance; τῷ θεῷ] A eth NR CEI Riv TILC Nv NM; and τῷ θεῷ ἡμῶν] 180 205 1854vid 2053comm2079 2082* 2256vid.

Because of the evidence the Nestle 1904; Westcott and Hort 1881 omit ἡμᾶς, which I will further explain below.

Thirty years ago, Greek Scholar Bruce Metzger in the book "A Textual Commentary On The Greek New Testament" talks about ἡμᾶς in Revelation 5:9, and states,
"Although the evidence for τῷ θεῷ is slight (A eth), this reading best accounts for the origin of the others. Wishing to provide ἠγόρασας with a more exactly determined object than is found in the words ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς κ.τ.λ., some scribes introduced ἡμᾶς either before τῷ θεῷ (94 2344 al) or after τῷ θεῷ (א 046 1006 1611 2053 al), while others replaced τῷ θεῷ with ἡμᾶς (1 2065* Cyprian al). Those who made the emendations, however, overlooked the unsuitability of ἡμᾶς with αὐτούς in the following verse (where, indeed, the Textus Receptus reads ἡμᾶς, but with quite inadequate authority)." (Pg. 665-666)

In other words Metzger is saying because 5:10 almost universally has "THEM", it makes "US" in 5:9 doubtful. This especially when, I have already explained, the most reliable and earliest manuscript lacks ἡμᾶς "US" in 5:9.

On Revelation 5:9, The NET Bible translated this, "you have purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation." For the word "persons" the NET Bible makes the following comment; "The word ‘persons' is not in the Greek text, but is implied. Direct objects were often omitted in Greek when clear from the context." In other words, the NET Bible translators also finds ἡμᾶς "US" doubtful in 5:9.

In Revelation 5:10 the NET Bible translates this as, "You have appointed them as a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." In regards to the translation of "them" in 5:10, the NET Bible notes state that, "The vast majority of witnesses have αὐτοὺς (autous, ‘them') here, while the Textus Receptus reads ἡμᾶς (hemas, ‘us') with insignificant support (pc gig vg(cl) sa Prim Bea). There is no question that the original text read αὐτοὺς here." In other words, it should say them not us.

Revelation 2:9 NET
‘I know the distress you are suffering and your poverty (but you are rich). I also know the slander against you by those who call themselves Jews and really are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
Revelation 3:9 NET
Listen! I am going to make those people from the synagogue of Satan—who say they are Jews yet are not, but are lying—look, I will make them come and bow down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.
Know what is missing in Revelation? The Jews! The only two times the word is used, Revelation 2:9 and 3:9, it refers to people that say they are Jews, but Jesus states they “are not”! I thought the Tribulation specifically dealt with the Jews? So why such an absence of the term in the book of Revelation?

What’s more, Israel seems to be missing as well! The only time Israel is mentioned is in Revelation 2:14, which is a reference to Israel in OT times, Revelation 21:12, which is a scene in the eternal state, and is merely stating the twelve tribes of Israel will be named on the twelve gates. That leaves one reference to Israel, Revelation 7:4, where it talks about the sealing of the 144,000. But John doesn’t mention this until after the first six seals have already been opened! So why the absensce of Israel and Jews on earth during the tribulation?

In conclusion, there is strong evidence in Revelation that the Church is in fact on earth during the Tribulation. The twenty-four elders are probably some kind of heavenly beings, although, even if they are humans it certainly doesn’t prove pre-trib since saints of all ages, including Christians, are currently in heaven.

We Are Not Appointed to Wrath

The Timing of the Rapture

The Testimony and Parables of Jesus

Does apostasia in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 refer to the rapture?

The Church Not Found In Revelation

The Resurrection

1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11, New Doctrine or Just a Clarification?

Who Escapes What in Revelation 3:10?

Imminence Refuted

John 14 - In My Fathers House

Harpazo the Greek Word for Rapture

Behold! I tell you what mystery means

The Dead in Christ & Tribulation Saints

Andy Woods

Revelation is NOT Chronological

Is the Holy Spirit the Restrainer?

What I believe - Day of the Lord Timeline

Understanding Zechariah 14

Blasted Hope or Blessed Hope?

Understanding Greek Pronouns and Their Importance

The Comfort Given by Paul

The Rapture in Revelation 7, Part 1

The Rapture in Revelation 7, Part 2

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