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Where is the Rapture in the Book of Revelation?

This article is developed from a transcript of Truthwatchers podcast, accessible here.

The question we are pursuing today is “Where is the Rapture in the Book of Revelation?” Many have sought to answer this question and many various answers have been provided. Multiple views of the rapture exist, such as pre-tribulation, mid-Tribulation, pre-wrath, post-tribulation, etc., and all these views would suggest they have determined their position from some passage in Revelation.

I find the evidence overwhelmingly tipping the scale for the pre-tribulation rapture. This conclusion is deduced from many passages outside of Revelation, as well as the ancient church fathers and even ancient Rabbinic literature, but in Revelation it has often been argued from the silence of the churches after Revelation chapter 3. This silence is supposedly implying the Christians were raptured to heaven and therefore not mentioned anywhere after since Revelation primary purpose is portraying what is happening on earth during the tribulation period.

First, I will say an argument from silence is never a great argument. Sometimes silence can provide suggestive evidence for something when other lines of evidence are brought in as an accumulative argument. However, in the book of Revelation, there simply is not a silence of where the churches are. It is expressed very clearly that the Church age saints are in heaven while the earth undergoes the tribulation.

After chapters 2 and 3 which record the letters to the churches from John as dictated by the Lord Jesus, the book of Revelation gives us a glance of heaven. Rev 4:1 says, “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven,” which is an expression transporting us as the readers into heaven to observe what is occurring there after recording the letters to the 7 churches. By the way, I take these churches to be literal churches that existed in the first century and reject the allegorical interpretation that these represent eras throughout the church age as many dispensationalist would teach.

In Rev 4:4 we are introduced to the 24 elders who are sitting around the throne of God. In chapter 5 we discover who these elders are. Now the literary form of chapter 5 has multiple short liturgical forms with doxologies and hymn-like compositions set in the heavenly throne room. In verse 8 the 24 elders fall before the Lamb to worship with harps, and in verse 9 the sing a new song of praise to Him.

In verse 5 one of the elders speaks to John about “the Lion of the tribe of Judah,” which is a messianic title from Genesis 49:9-10 prophesying of the King from the tribe of Judah. This elder also refers to “the Root of David” which is another messianic title from Isaiah 11:1, and verse 10.

Verse 10 says, “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek” which is relevant to mention the Gentiles seeking this root of Jesse since Rev. 5:9-10 has the words of the hymn of these 24 elders praising this Messiah on the throne who “wast 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 the earth.” Note here that the redeemer is described with Jewish titles, “Lion of Judah” and “Root of Jesse,” who is said to have “redeem us” that is the 24 elders, “out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” which means they are Gentiles. These Gentiles are made to be kings and priests who shall reign on earth. That phrase “shall reign” is future tense, implying they are currently in heaven but will in the future reign on earth. The chronology of the book would indicate that the future time when they will reign on earth is after the tribulation.

The context of Revelation 5 is this Messiah will be opening the seals that unleash the plagues that occur on earth during the Tribulation. We see the Church age saint in heaven expressed to be Gentiles while the Lord Jesus is presented with very Jewish Messianic titles “Lion of Judah” and “Root of Jesse,” to show His focus returns to the Jews, the nation of Israel, because the Gentile mission has been completed. Paul wrote to the Romans, “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” (Romans 11:25)

We will focus our attention on the 24 elders to confirm that they represent the saints of the church age.

First, note that this groups of 24 elder represent a group of redeemed people that is universal in scope. Revelation 5:9 indicates this as they praise the Lamb who “redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” This group that is in heaven is contrasted to the saints that are on earth during the tribulation, that is those who get saved after the rapture. Revelation 7:9-14 reveals this very clearly:

“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

We see clearly that the elders were already in heaven and are contrasted to this great multitude which came out of the great tribulation. Both groups, the elders and the great multitude, represent people of every tongue and nation which have been washed by the blood of the Lamb and worship Him for providing them with salvation. But the elders did not come out of the great tribulation because they were raptured out of the earth before the tribulation. All other universal expression in the book of Revelation are referring to the unsaved on the earth during the tribulation (Revelation 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; 17:15).

Second, as mentioned before and is indicated from Revelation 5:9, that these elders are redeemed by the Lamb and are in heaven before the Tribulation in unleashed upon the inhabitants of earth.

Third, the elders are dscibed as being dressed in white and with crowns of gold in Revelation 4:4, and verse 10. “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.” Verse 10 “The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne”

Fourth, these elders reveal information to John. In Revelation 5:5 “And one of the elders saith unto me,” But where is John? 4:1 says, “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.” So John is in heaven, and the elders are also there explaining to him “things which must be hereafter.” We also see in Revelation 7:13 again one of the elders explaining to John what he is seeing in this heavenly vision of things that will occur in the future.

Fifth, the elders worship the Lamb for His completed redemption as is evident in Revelation 5:8-9. “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. And they sung 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 to God by thy blood”

Sixth, this redemption has made the elders to be kings and priests on the earth in the future. Revelation 5:10 “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” This is not said of the great multitude that comes out of the great tribulation in revelation 7.

Seventh, in Revelation 11:16-18 these elders worship Christ as God for his judgment being poured out upon earth during the tribulation. “And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.”

Eighth, the elders worship God for judging Babylon in 19:1-4. “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia And her smoke rose up for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.”

And Ninth, the elders hear the song of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists that proclaim the gospel during the Tribulation period. “And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.” (Revelation 14:1-3)

The 144,000 are explained to be Jews from the 12 tribes of Israel in Revelation 7:4-8.

So we can see that these 24 elders are obviously saints redeemed by the blood of Christ who they worship, they are specifically Gentiles from every nation and language, we find them located in heaven prior to the judgements of the tribulation period beginning, their differentiated from the saints that come out of the great tribulation as well as being distinguished from the 144,000 Jewish evangelists which are on earth during the tribulation period. The fact that these are church age saints cannot be any clearer.

The next question stand, why are these elder depicted or symbolized with the number 24? Since these elders are represented as kings and priests and worship the Lamb with songs and harps in Revelation 5:8-10, the obvious symbolism would direct us to the 24 orders of priestly musicians in 1 Chronicles 25:1, 3, 6-9, 31.

Furthermore, these 24 orders of priestly musicians were present and ministering at the dedication of the 1st Temple constructed by king Solomon (2 Chronicles 5:12-14). They were also ministering at the rededication during king Hezekiah’s reform in 2 Chronicle 29:25. Again, they are at the dedication of the 2nd Temple in Nehemiah 12:27.

The emphasis of the Temple is of interest for the Raptured saints. In Revelation 3:10-12 it says, “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. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.”

Now compare that with Revelation 11:19, “and the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament”

Revelation 14:15 speaks of “And another angel came out of the temple” which in verse 17 we are told “And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven”

Revelation 15:5-8 “And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened: And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles. And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.”

Revelation 16:1 says “And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.” And verse 17, “And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.”

Revelation 21:22 describing New Jerusalem, “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.”

This progression shows the raptured saints represent the 24 priestly orders that inaugurate worship in the heavenly Temple, praising God for the prophetic judgements on earth during the Tribulation period, as well as functioning as kings and priests during the millennium until the uniting of the heavenly city with earth.

1 Peter 2:5 speaks of these present age saints as “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” Again in verse 9 we are told “but ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light”

In Revelation 1:4 we are told this comment from John is directed to the seven churches of Asia, and in verse 6 it says “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Now this is the seven literal churches in Asia during the first century, they are church age saints and they are said to be made kings and priests unto God.

As we saw previously, Revelation 5:10 says, “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” This verse says, “hast made us” so they already are kings and priests, however, they “shall reign” in the future. This future reigning is explained in chapter 20 verse 6. “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” It is in the millennial kingdom that the church age saints reign on earth. The millennial kingdom is inaugurated after the tribulation period when Satan is bound in the bottomless pit for a thousand years.

In conclusion, all the church age saints are removed from the earth by the rapture in order to act as the 24 priestly orders of musicians ministering in the Temple in heaven all throughout the Tribulation period. So the book of Revelation does not use the word “rapture,” nor out rightly declare when it occurs, but is actually quite clear from the inference that the rapture takes place before the tribulation.

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Heath Henning
Heath Henning
Heath heads the Set Free addictions ministry on Friday nights at Mukwonago Baptist Church and is involved in evangelism on the University of Wisconsin Whitewater campus, offering his expertise in apologetics at the weekly Set Free Bible Study every Tuesday evening. He currently lives in East Troy, Wisconsin with his wife and nine children. Read Heath Henning's Testimony

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