A Typical and Telling Defense by Pretribulational Rapturism

It’s so easy to argue alone. Chances are you’ll win every time! Our goal at PRI is to proclaim and defend the PreWrath position. Yet, often we feel as if we are arguing by ourselves, because we’re the only ones arguing. Pretribulationists do not offer compelling arguments for their position.

Just once, at least, I would like to hear or read of a well-reasoned defense of the pretrib position that is based firmly upon sound exegesis. In response to my thorough disabling of the pretrib notion that Revelation 3:10 is a proof-text for their position, one person responded in the following manner:

Whats wrong with you guys? Rev chp 4 vs 1 is the rapture. Notice the church is not mentioned again till arounf chp 18 or so? Its gone.

To be fair, I am not going to judge the way this man expresses himself. After all, in this two-thumbs writing generation (texting), apocopation is the order of the day. No, I will stick with the substance of his argument.

This man presents a frequent argument of pretribbers. Instead of solid, faultless and accurate exegesis, he offers (1) a gross spiritualization (John represents the church), (2) an argument from silence (since the term “church” does not occur in chapters 4-18 or so, therefore the church must be in heaven), and (3) an appeal to logical reasoning (notice his remark: “Whats wrong with you guys?”). This is typical, shameless pretrib eisegesis that may purport to be – but isn’t – careful biblical exegesis. Now what is truly sad here is that this man is very serious. He sees nothing wrong with his defense.

No argument for the pretrib rapture in the book of Revelation holds more weighty assurance for pretribbers than their argument from silence regarding the absence of the term “church” in Revelation 4-18. So, when all other arguments have been shown to be untrue, well, not to worry! There is always the “absence-of-the-word-church” argument! The only logical conclusion to this whole line of reasoning is that the church must be in heaven, having been raptured before the events of chapters 4-18 start. Case closed! Argument won! What is next for debate? For most pretribbers, it is just that simple.

Now if we take the pretrib line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, since the term church does not appear in Revelation 20-21 either, we must conclude that the church is not on earth during the millennial reign of Christ. And since the term is absent from Revelation 21, we must also conclude that the church is not present in eternity future on the new earth. By their definition, once the term usage ends in Revelation 4, we do not see or hear from it ever again with the exception of a mention in Revelation 22:16. How is your argument from silence working out for you pretribbers?

We all understand that pretribbers have no problem identifying the church in Revelation 19, where verse 14 refers to “the armies of heaven.” This group must include the church, otherwise it does not return with Christ to fight at Har Mo’ed. Revelation 20:4 refers to “thrones and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed.” If the church is not a part of this group, then she is not present on the earth during the reign of the Lord Christ.

Using the pretrib argument, we sing, “O where, O where has God’s church gone, O where, O where can she be?” Yet, when it is convenient, pretribbers find the church in Revelation 4-19. We began with one pretribber’s conviction that the church appears in Revelation 4:1—John the apostle. Pretribbers have argued ad nauseam that “the twenty-four elders” found in Revelation 5:8-10 is the church. A. Boyd Luter and Emily K. Hunter, both pretribbers, recently argued that the “great multitude” of Revelation 7 is the church.[1] Some pretribbers argue that the two “witnesses” in Revelation 11 is the church. One pretribulationist has recently argued that the “male child” of Revelation 12:5 is the church. Luter and Hunter argue that the term “earth dwellers” used in Revelation 12:12 and 13:6 is the church.[2] Others have consistently taught that the reference to “harvest of the earth” in Revelation 14:15 refers to the church.

Notice Revelation 4, 5, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14 all refer to the church, not by the name “church” to be sure, but indirectly. It reminds me of a saying of my grandmother, “They called me everything, but a child of God.” It seems in Revelation 4-19 that the church is called everything else, but not the church. What we need is an honest dialogue about hermeneutics. Nothing will ever come of our discussions until we agree on how to study the Bible. Until then, pretribbers and prewrathers pass in the night.

[1] Luter and Hunter write, “Since there are essentially the same three elements seen in 1:5–6 and 5:9–10 as referring to the church, it would seem virtually certain that the same group is in view in 7:9, 14–15.” Check out their article: “The “Earth Dwellers” and the “Heaven Dwellers”: An Overlooked Interpretive Key to the Apocalypse,” FM 20(Fall 2002) p 7.
[2] Ibid.

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