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Come Up Hither
In a previous article "The Hour of Temptation," I examined a critical piece of the pre-tribulation puzzle. Critical not because I intend to "attack" pre-tribulationalism, but I am compelled to examine holy scriptures to see if these things are true. It was critical because I considered this one of their strongest argument. Their strongest argument, maybe. But I concluded their argument wasn't valid. This article relating to the fourth chapter in Revelation is not as critical, but still needs serious examination.
We will look at the pre-trib claims:
When John was called up into heaven, it symbolizes the church being raptured before the tribulation
The twenty-four elders are the church elders (or the church) who are (or was) raptured with John.
We begin by reading chapter four in Revelation:
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. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
Revelation 4:1-2 KJV
Many Pre-tribbers believe when John heard a voice like a sound of the trumpet speaking with him is the same trumpet sound in1 Thessalonians 4:16, and the command, "come up here," is the command that "raptures" John and the church up to heaven before the tribulation. But as we see, John heard a voice "like a sound of a trumpet" speaking to him. It wasn't a trumpet blast. It was in actual voice. John said earlier in Revelation:
"I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet..."
That voice was from the Lord Jesus Christ.1
John didn't say the church was caught up with him when he wrote this verse. He didn't say he physically went up into heaven. He only mentions himself being "in the spirit."
If we are to take this verse literally, or word for word, we can not conclude that the church was raptured with John. Here is another critical point to this scripture. Many pre-tribbers claim that the church is raptured in verse 2 also believe the 24 elders in verse 4 represent the raptured church.
"And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold."
But after a close examination, The twenty four elders were seated around the throne, but John was not. Therefore, John and these twenty-four elders are separate. As we look further, After it is was revealed that Jesus is the only one who can break the seals, these twenty-four elders give the Lord praise as it appears in King James:
"...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 the earth.
It appears by reading this verse from King James that the twenty-four elders could be the church because they said in their praise that Jesus redeemed them (us) and made them (us) to be kings and priests. However, does the 24 elders represent the whole church, or elders who had high positions in the churches? And if they church are elders, couldn't they have died and then went to heaven before John was told to "come up here?" These are just a few important questions to consider. In this verse of scripture, there are many who believe that verses nine and ten were mistranslated in King James. There are later translations, for example, the New American Standard Bible, translate these verses:
And they sang a new song, saying,
" Worthy art Thou to take the book and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth."
Revelation 4:9-10 NASB
As we examine the above translation, the 24 elders exclude themselves from the church, and even spiritual Israel because the words men, them and they are used.
Later on in the book and after the sixth seal in King James, Many pre-tribbers believe this scene is depicting the multitude from many nations as the raptured church because these multitudes "come out of great tribulation":
These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
The above words were spoken by one of the 24 elders.2 And if we look closely, if the multitude represents the pre-trib raptured church, then we must conclude the twenty-four elders are separate from this multitude. Because the elder used the word they (the multitude are which that came out of great tribulation). And he didn't say "these are which came out of tribulation with us." And if these 24 elders represents the raptured church, then why weren't the multitude (and John) seated around the throne with the 24 elders in chapter four? 3
The Opening of the Seventh trumpet lends further credence to the mistranslation. The elders praise God saying;
"...and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name..."
From the King James, the elders again are separate from the saints, prophets and those who fear his name. They did not include themselves as receiving a reward.
After examining this part of scripture, we can't conclude that John described a "pre-trib" rapture. And we must conclude the 24 elders are not the raptured church.
One of the basic reasons pre-tribbers believe in their rapture is that the word "church" isn't mentioned after chapter 4 in Revelation. Is this a valid point? In the gospels, church is used three times. It is used in two verses. It is only used in one gospel, Matthew. Most believers, especially among the pre-trib rank believe church refers to a body of believers in Jesus. Many also believe saint in the New Testament refers to those who are saved in Christ. The epistles are addressed to a church or to saints. During the tribulation, there are those will become believers in Christ and become saints. So, why couldn't church apply to them also?
As we examine their argument further, let's take their basic principle and apply it to the rest of Revelation. Did John use the word church in chapter 4 verses1-4? So by their logic alone, they shouldn't even conclude the church and the twenty-four elders are raptured with John. Is "church" used in the scenes in heaven during the tribulation? So, we must conclude the church will not be in heaven during the tribulation. Does John use the word "church" during the Millennium or when God makes the new heaven and new earth? Therefore, we must conclude the church isn't there either. So by this alone one has to conclude that the church got lost somewhere after chapter 3 if we carry this pre-trib mindset further.
Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man to what he has done.
Revelation 22:12 NASB
3- There will be a closer examination of the multitude in the chapter The Seven Seals (A Study in Revelation) (http://www.tribulationcentral.com/7seals.html ).