Biblical Eschatology

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

The Rapture in Revelation 7

One thing I have learned in life is that you can't just take someone’s word for it, no matter how much you respect the person. You have to double check the facts. If you ever find I have made an error, I invite you to reach out to me and let me know. I do make errors from time to time, whether it be a typo or something similar. I would never knowingly deceive someone. I realize no one is perfect. On the other hand, I have found with Dr. Andy Woods, he constantly makes errors, but ignores emails or blocks people who point out mistakes. This has made me conclude that Dr. Woods is purposefully trying to deceive people or he just doesn't care about the truth. This is once again outlined in this article. My sincere hope is everyone who reads these articles would learn Koine Greek. It is much harder to be deceived if you have studied to show yourself approved, both the Bible and the language it was originally written in.
Revelation 7:9-10 NASB
9After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 1Oand they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
The classic pre-wrath position sees the innumerable multitude in Revelation 7:9-10 as those who have just been raptured. I don't believe Revelation is chronological, and I share this view that this is in fact the Rapture. I find the parallels to the cosmic signs that precede the Day of the Lord mentioned in Joel and the Olivet Discourse the same as those mentioned in the sixth seal.

Revelation 7:13-14 NET
13Then one of the elders asked me, "These dressed in long white robes—who are they and where have they come (ἦλθον, erchomai, Aorist Indicative Verb, 3rd Person Plural) from?" 14So I said to him, "My lord, you know the answer." Then he said to me, "These are the ones who have come out of (ἐρχόμενοι, erchomai, Present Participle) the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb!
In his rapture sermon series, Dr. Andy Woods tries to debunk the argument that Revelation 7:9-10 describes the rapture based on Revelation 7:13-14. He does this with an argument that he believes is based on the Greek. However, it is apparent that neither Dr. Woods nor the teachers he quotes understand the time aspect of participles in Greek. I will quote several Greek grammars to explain my point, one of which is online so you can easily check it for yourself.

Dr. Woods states, "Another problem with this is the present tense verbs. This is very important. This is where Greek helps you a lot."1 Which I agree, actually knowing Greek if you are going to teach it, is extremely helpful. In regards to verse 13, he states, "'Where do they come from.' That's erchomai, present tense, I believe it's a participle. The present tense is describing a process of continuous action."2 The assertion by Woods that erchomai in Revelation 7:13 and again in 7:14 are present participles is incorrect. Erchomai in Revelation 7:13 is not a participle, it is aorist indicative. Erchomai in 7:14 is a participle. Andy did add a "I believe," after he made the statement, so I'm not going to assert that he is intentionally misleading people here. What I am going to assert, however, is this is extremely sloppy! As a teacher, how do you just blindly follow what others teach without checking their facts? God holds teachers to a higher standard.

Woods continues explaining that those seen, "They're going up into heaven after they have been martyred and this is a lengthy process."3 In verse 14, he continues, "These are the ones who come, again it's erchomai, present tense, out of the great tribulation."4 "If these are present tense participles this can not be the rapture, because the rapture, when it occurs, is not a process."5

Woods then quotes Robert Thomas, who he calls a "very good Greek grammarian"6. He states that the view that Revelation 7 is the rapture, "can be dismissed because it neglects the ongoing nature of the departure indicated by the present [tense] participle ἐρχόμενοι."7 "So Thomas critiquing Rosenthal"8 states, "Beyond that you can't find the rapture here, in Revelation 7:14, because the Greek demands a process. The Rapture is not a process."9 Woods also quotes Gerald B. Stanton who states, "The Greek present tense in Revelation 7:14 stresses that they 'continually come' out of the great tribulation, and obviously do not go to heaven as a single group."10

Dr. Woods apparently has no understanding of how participles work in regard to time. His assertion that since the participle was present tense, that this was an ongoing event, isn’t what the Greek is saying at all. The time of participles is in relation to the main verb. So the meaning of the tense of the participle changes based on the tense of the main indicative verb, which carries the actual tense (time). In English, this would be like me saying, "he died (past tense) while skydiving (present tense). We realize that he is not currently dying. It is saying that he died in the act of skydiving. He was presently skydiving and died.

The best undisputable example of this in the New Testament is Matthew 2:20.
Matthew 2:20 NET
saying, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking (ζητοῦντες, present participle) the child's life are dead (τεθνήκασιν, perfect indicative verb i.e., past tense)."
It says that those seeking Jesus' life are dead. If we are following Dr. Woods' argument, then these people who died, are still seeking the life of Jesus. Of course, that is nonsensical and not what the angel was saying at all.

Revelation 7:13-14 NET
13Then one of the elders asked me, "These dressed in long white robes—who are they and where have they come (ἦλθον, erchomai, Aorist Indicative Verb, 3rd Person Plural) from?" 14So I said to him, "My lord, you know the answer." Then he said to me, "These are the ones who have come out of (ἐρχόμενοι, erchomai, Present Participle) the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb!
The Bible's who best translate this as a past event are the, KJV, NET, NIV, ERV, NHEB, and WEB Bibles. The head verb is in verse 13, erchomai (ἦλθον), is an aorist indicative verb. In the indicative the aorist tense references past time (past tense), with a couple exceptions. There can be no debate that John meant past tense, because he was seeing the result of the verb right in front of his face! So the few exceptions to this rule would not apply here. So without a doubt, John is saying this event has already taken place. Is it possible that more people arrive in heaven later? Sure that is possible. However, that can't be arrived at based on Revelation 7:9-14.

Before I get to the Greek grammar books to explain this, let me give you a quick break down of Revelation 7:13-14. It's saying, "where have they come (past tense, already occurred) from" (vs. 13)? These are the ones who have (past tense) come out (present when John saw it, but not currently occurring) of the great tribulation (vs. 14). I realize this may seem strange a little to those who don't know Greek. Luckily some very good Greek grammarians have broken this concept down for us.

For those who don't own a Greek textbook to verify the information I provide here, I quote an online source that can easily be verified. In his online course, Jeff Smelser stated,
A participle will not be the main verb in a sentence. Instead, as noted above, participles are verbs that are used as modifiers. In Greek as in English, they may modify nouns as do adjectives, or they may modify verbs, as do adverbs. To the extent that the tense of a participle indicates time, it will indicate time only relative to the main verb. Present tense participles usually indicate action coincident with the time of the main verb. In the sentence,

He broke his leg playing football,

the main verb (also known as the "leading verb") is broke, and is past tense. If this sentence were in Greek, the participle would be in the present tense, but it would not indicate that the playing is present time in an absolute sense. Rather it would indicate that the playing was present time at the moment the leg was broken. We might translate,

He broke his leg while playing football.11
J.W. Wenham explains that "Generally speaking, the Present Participle denotes action taking place at the same time as the action of the main verb."12 Similarly, Mounce explains the "present" or continuous participle.
Most grammars use the term "present" participle because this participle is built on the present tense stem of the verb. This nomenclature is helpful in learning the form of the participle. However, it tends to do a serious disservice because the student may infer that the present participle describes an action occurring in the present time, which it may not. It describes a continuous action. Because the participle is not in the indicative, there is no time significance to the participle.13
Dr. Mounce then adds this footnote, "There is an implied time relationship between the time of the participle and the time of the main verb, but it is secondary to the true significance of the participle."14 Pg 247 Mounce also adds more advanced information on participles.
There is an important distinction between absolute and relative time. An indicative verb indicates absolute time. For example, if an indicative verb is present tense, then it usually indicates an action occurring in the present. If the Greek participle indicated absolute time, then the present participle would indicate an action occurring in the present.

However, the Greek participle does not indicate absolute time. It indicates relative time. This means that the time of the participle is relative to the time of the main verb. The present participle describes an action occurring at the same time as the main verb.

In order to indicate relative time, you must change the way you translate the participle by using a helping verb ("studying" becomes "was studying.") You May want to add the appropriate pronoun (e.g., "he was studying").

  • If the main verb is aorist, the present participle will be translated as the past continuous (e.g., "was praying").

    ἦλθε προσευχόμενος.
    He went while he is praying.

  • If the main verb is a present, then the present participle is translated as the present continuous (e.g., "is praying").

    ἔρχεται προσευχόμενος.
    He goes while he is praying.15
  • Pg 255 Dr. Mounce points out that "a participle has tense (present, aorist, perfect)."16 Additionally, future can also be a tense of the participle. Since, as Dr. Mounce points out, there are only a couple of tense options for a participle, we have to determine why John chose the continuous participle, which is built on the present tense stem.

    So let's look at what Mounce gives us as the tense implications for these participles. "The perfect participle indicates A completed action with results continuing into the present (of the speaker)."17 "The future participle is used to describe what is 'purposes, intended, or expected' in the future."18 Finally, "The aorist participle, which is formed from the aorist tense stem, often indicates an action occurring before the time of the main verb."19 Calling it an "aorist" participle does a disservice to students, because it may "infer that the aorist participle describes an action occurring in the past, which it does not."20 Mounce goes on to state a better name for the aorist would be the "undefined participle."21

    Since an aorist participle generally refers to an event that occurs before the main verb, it would make no sense for John to have used it. It would make the statement nonsensical. The only option that would properly get John's point across was to use an aorist indicative verb followed by a continuous (present) participle. This is better translated using poor English. He was basically saying, "those who I was seeing, where did they come (past tense) from"?

    Therefore, we can conclude that the argument made by Andy Woods, et al, is erroneous, and only proves that any arguments made based on Greek should be checked in a Greek textbook to check the statements validity.

    (1) Woods. Rapture, Youtube Start at 42:00.
    (2) Woods. Rapture, Youtube Start at 42:15.
    (3) Woods. Rapture, Youtube Start at 42:58.
    (4) Woods. Rapture, Youtube Start at 43:10.
    (5) Woods. Rapture, Youtube Start at 43:22.
    (6) Woods. Rapture, Youtube Start at 46:18.
    (7) Woods. Rapture, Youtube Start at 46:25.
    (8) Woods. Rapture, Youtube Start at 47:30.
    (9) Woods. Rapture, Youtube Start at 47:37.
    (10) Woods. Rapture, Youtube Start at 51:40.
    (11) Smelser., online.
    (12) Wenham. Elements, 152.
    (13) Mounce. Greek Grammar, 247.
    (14) Mounce. Greek Grammar, 247.
    (15) Mounce. Greek Grammar, 255.
    (16) Mounce. Greek Grammar, 239.
    (17) Mounce. Greek Grammar, 285.
    (18) Mounce. Greek Grammar, 269.
    (19) Mounce. Greek Grammar, 255.
    (20) Mounce. Greek Grammar, 258.
    (21) Mounce. Greek Grammar, 258.

    Mounce, William D. Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, Second Edition, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2003., Smelser, Jeff. online,

    Wenham, J.W. The Elements of New Testament Greek, Cambridge University Press: New York, 1991.

    Woods, Andy. Rapture Sermon Series 47, YouTube Online

    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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