The book of Revelation is primarily about the unveiling of the majesty and glory of the Messiah of Israel, and our "Blessed Lord Jesus Christ". Certainly the event of His Second Coming is a powerful message of this book. But it is even a lot more than just that.
Revelation 1:7 says, "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the Earth shall wail because of Him, Even so, Amen", Most Bible teachers believe that this verse refers to His Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation (often referred to or called "The Revelation") which is described so powerfully in chapter 19 of the book of Revelation. But we are clearly being presented with a picture of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture! That fact is often over-shadowed by the dominant theme of judgment that befalls the nation of Israel and the rebellious world we live in.
In Revelation 1:19 we have an outline of the book given to us: "Write the things which thou has seen, and the tings which are, and the things which shall be hereafter", This threefold outline includes the vision of our resurrected Lord in chapter 1 as "the things which thou hast seen"; the messages to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3 as "the things which are" (meaning - existing in John's day); and from chapter 4, verse 1 to the end of the book - "the things which shall be hereafter", The word "hereafter" (Greek: "meta tauta") or "after these things" (following the "things which thou hast seen" and the "things which are") is an extremely important clue to the order of things in this book. We read in Revelation 4:1: "After this" (Greek: "meta tauta") and at the end of the verse the word "hereafter" (Greek: "meta tauta""). It would appear, therefore, that the third part of the outline of the book of Revelation begins with Revelation 4:1 and continue to the end of the book. These events follow the "things which are" or the messages to the seven churches existing in John's day.
The following five issues are at the heart of the question concerning the Rapture in the book of Revelation of Jesus Christ:
1. The Promise to the Church of Philadelphia - Revelation 3:10.
2. The Problem of any Gentile believers surviving the Tribulation -(confirmed by 1st Thessalonians 4:17
with Revelation 6:11; 7:9-17; 11:7; 13:7; 14:13; 15:2; 16:6; 18:24; and 20:4.
3. The Place of John in heaven - Revelation 4:1.
4. The Presence of 24 elders in heaven during the judgments on Earth - Revelation 4:4, 10; 5:6, 8-14;
7:11-14; 11:16-18; 19:4.
5. The Proclamation of a new song by the 24 elders - Revelation 5:9-10.
Issue #1 stated in Revelation 3:10: "Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the Earth."
It is this one verse that gives the primary understanding of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Bride/Church. The debate over this verse between Pre-Tribulationalists and Post-Tribulationalists seems to center on whether it is a promise of immunity from the judgments of the Tribulation or a promise of removal from this awful period of time known as the "Day of the Lord". One point that is not debated is that this is a promise from the Lord Himself - "I also will keep thee". A few things must be kept in mind concerning the meaning of this verse. This goes to my previous references and emphasis on the Greek use of the "Definite Article" which so many see as unimportant.
1. The "Definite Article" in Greek appears in front of of the word "hour" and the word "temptation".
It is not referring to just any particular period of trial, but to a specific one that is obviously still in the future at the writing of the book of Revelation. It speaks of "THE hour of THE temptation/trial". In Greek, the "Definite Article" "the" becomes significant and added emphasis to the writer's words. In English we play rather fast and loose in its use. It has also become apparent that various translating bodies such as the United Bible Society and the American Bible Society and others have for years deliberately taken liberties with the matters of translating the Biblical texts. For most people the absence of the "Definite Article" here and there would never be noticed over the decades, however, I have had communication with men that take very serious the accurate translation of the Biblical texts. I sense major modification by a few individuals that have worked on behalf of bringing Hebrew and Greek manuscripts to correspond more to the wishes of the Vatican.
2. The specific trial is global in impact, not a local situation.
John says concerning this coming trial, "which shall come upon ALL THE WORLD".
3. The purpose of this "temptation/trial" is to "try them that dwell upon the Earth".
In the book of Revelation these Earth-dwellers appear to be non-believers, NOT believers! Consider Revelation 6:10; 11:30; 13:12, 14; 14:6; 17:8.
4. The preposition following the world "keep" is (Greek: "ek") whose primary root meaning is "out of" - and it teaches removal, not immunity as many attempt to mislead. Note carefully this translation point. It teaches removal, not immunity!
In regards to the second issue regarding Gentiles surviving, the words of 1st Thessalonians 4:17 says, "Then we which are alive and remain". It appears from the words of 1st Thessalonians 2:14-16 that the Bride/Church in Thessalonians was composed primarily of Gentiles. 1st Thessalonians 4:17 implies that when the Lord comes, there will be Gentiles alive when it happens (Paul also uses the editorial "we" and includes himself!). But, in the book of Revelation, it appears that the Gentile multitude of chapter 7 who are saved during the Tribulation - do NOT survive the wrath of the dragon and his Beast". The false prophet also adds to this terror against the Gentile believers -(Revelation 13:15) and cause as many as do not take the "Mark" and worship the beast to be killed. Revelation 13:7 says that this beast will "overcome" the believers, and comparing this with Revelation 11:7 (in "overcome") the believers, and comparing this with Revelation 11:7 (in the case of the two witnesses) it appears that to "overcome" them means to kill them. Revelation 20 then describes the martyrs of the Tribulation being resurrected at the end of the Tribulation (along with the Old Testament saints -(confirmed in Daniel 12:1-3, 12-13). The "first resurrection" refers to believers being resurrected; it appears to be in two phases - one of the Rapture, and secondly, at the Revelation, or the end of the Tribulation. The "second resurrection" refers to all unbelievers being resurrected to stand before the great white throne judgment to her the verdict of the Lord Himself - this occurs 1,000 years after the "first resurrection".
The third issue pertains to John in Revelation 4:1, "After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, 'Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter".
Revelation 4:2 adds: "And immediately I was in the spirit". Pay close attention here. The "definite article" "the" is not in the Greek text. John simply says that he was "in spirit". The same thing is found in Revelation 1:10. By some means of spiritual transference, John was ushered into heaven where he could view the events that would transpire on the Earth in the future. He also heard a voice like a "trumpet" talking with him; The words of 1st Thessalonians 4:16 include "the trump of God".
The very fact of this unusual detail would point to a possible Rapture that would precede the coming Tribulation. John, both as an apostle and as a believer, would certainly picture such an event.
The fourth issue pertains to the 24 elders in heaven during the judgments on Earth. There is no doubt that the issue of the 24 elders is critical to the whole argument of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. George Eldon Ladd, a Post-Tribber theologian, and writer admits that very fact in his commentary on the book of Revelation. Here are the facts about the 24 elders:
1. They sit on thrones around the throne of God in heaven - (Revelation 4:42).
2. They are clothed in white raiment - (Revelation 4:4).
3. They have crowns of gold on their heads - (Revelation 4:4).
4. They are pictured as ones who fall down before God and worship Him, casting their crowns at
His feet -(Revelation 4:10-11; 5:14.).
5. They are also pictured as falling down before the Lamb, and have harps and bowls of incense
representing the prayers of the saints - (Revelation 5:8).
6. They sing a new song about the worthiness of the Lamb - (Revelation 5:9-10).
The very fact that the 24 elders are seen in heaven, NOT on Earth during the judgment of the Tribulation forces us to connect them with the following possibilities:
1. They refer to angels.
2. They refer to all believers who have died and are now in heaven.
3. They refer to Gentile believers who are saved during the Tribulation and are martyred.
4. They refer to church-age believers only.
The 24 elders cannot refer to angels because they are identified separately from them in Revelation 5:11 and 7:11. They cannot refer to the Gentile multitude who are saved during the Tribulation on the basis of the discussion of Revelation 7:13-14.
The description of these 24 elders in Revelation 4:4 connects them with the promises to church-age believers in Revelation 2 and 3. The words about them sitting on thrones remind us of Revelation 3:21; the reference to them being clothed in white raiment connects us with the words of Revelation 3:5; the picture of them with crowns of gold on their heads reminds us of Revelation 2:10 and 3:11.
These 24 elders are not called "priests" or "saints" but rather "elders". That is a specific description of church leaders as well as the "elders" who acted as judges and administrators of justice among the children of Israel. However, the "elders" of the Sanhedrin who are often connected with the priests and the scri not treated as genuine believers in the New Testament. They are the ones who condemned our Lord to death and delivered Him to the Romans for crucifixion.
The use of the number "24" is also instructive. There have been many attempts by Bible scholars and teachers to divide this number into the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles of the Church. But, there is no Biblical warrant or basis for that kind of exegesis of the text. The number is found in 1st Chronicles 24 and 25 and refer to 24 divisons of priests and musicians for the Nation of Israel. But, these are not called "priests" but "elders".
The fifth point concerns the New Song proclaimed by the 24 elders in Revelation 5:9-10. This issue is by far the most important of them all. It involves a great deal of controversy among Bible teachers. Those of you who use other translations than the King James Bible can compare. I quote the KJV here, "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou are worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for Thou was slain, and hast redeemed US to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation: And hast made US unto OUR God kings and priests and WE shall reign on he Earth". I have examined most modern translations and virtually none translated the underscored words above as such. They use assorted pronouns that fall short of translating the more accurate meaning.
First of all, in relation to the differences in verse 10 between the KJV Bible and other English translations, the Greek text shows a number of variant readings. If the third person plural is preferred, it still does not prove anything because it can simply refer to those mentioned in verse 9. It is interesting that we have in Revelation 1:6 these words: "And hath made 'US' kings and priests unto God" - and there is no variation in the manuscripts supporting this reading. It would appear that Revelation 5:10, therefore, should support the reading of Revelation 1:6, which has no variants. A "variant" is simply the same verse in or from another Greek manuscript. You will never find these in any of your Bibles, short of a subscript notation in the footnotes of your Bible. I have at my access a complete computerized Biblical textual manuscript apparatus, that shows the Hebrew Masoretic Old Testament and the Greek Textus-Receptus. Inserted within the passages, any variant that differs from the two noted manuscripts, will be found any and all variants known to exist. This is about as comprehensive as you can get when it comes to comparing all ancient manuscripts simultaneously. It is impossible because of the material to put all of this information into any bound printed Bible and far too expensive for the Bible student.
Secondly, the real problem depends upon the manuscript evidence behind Revelation 5:9. Does the evidence support the word "US" or a reading of "THEM" or "MEN" or "PEOPLE", etc.? Of the Greek manuscripts (that we have today) of the passage in Revelation 5:9 are 24 in number, and 23 of them read "US". Even the primary languages into which the Greek version was soon translated - all read "US". The issue is critical to the argument - are the 24 elders singing a song of redemption about themselves or about others who would be redeemed during the Tribulation? It appears that the evidence is overwhelming and that the King James Bible is the correct one of Revelation 5:9.
The conclusion is that it would appear that the Rapture is indeed pictured and stated in the book of Revelation and that church-age believers will be removed from the judgments, and taken out before all of the Great Tribulation upon the Earth!
Maranatha, Lord Jesus Christ Come Quickly,