A popular argument for a pre-tribulation rapture is the claim that while the “church” is mentioned 19 times in the first three chapters of the book of Revelation, in chapters 4–18, dispensationalist Mark Hitchcock writes, “there is absolute silence.” Similar to the way dispensationalists place a gap in time between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel 9:24–27, they place a gap between the last verse of Revelation 3 and the first verse of Revelation 4. It’s in Revelation 4:1 that the Church supposedly will be “raptured” because there is no mention of “the church” in chapters 4–18.
Let’s test this claim. The first three chapters of Revelation deal with seven first-century historical churches, assemblies of believers in Asia Minor: the church in Ephesus (2:1), the church in Smyrna (2:8), the church in Pergamum (2:12), the church in Thyatira (2:18), the church in Sardis (3:1), the church in Philadelphia (3:7), and the church in Laodicea (3:14). There is no mention of “the church” as universal and world-wide in Revelation 1–3. If Jesus meant the universal church at a time just before a so-called “rapture,” He could/would have used a phrase like “the whole church” (Rom. 16:23). Instead, Jesus refers to actual congregations in a limited geographical area in the first century.
We know this is true since there were other local churches in the Roman Empire: the church in Rome, the “church which is at Cenchrea” (Rom. 16:1), “all the churches of the Gentiles” (16:4), the church that met in the house of Aquila and Prisca (16:5), “all the churches” (16:16), Corinth (1:2; 2 Cor. 2:1), Galatia (1:2: “churches of Galatia”), Philippi, Colossae, and Jerusalem (Acts 5:11; 8:1).
If the number of times a word appears is important, and Revelation 4–19 is said to be about Israel, why does the word ‘Israel’ only appear once after the supposed rapture of the Church, and not until Revelation 7:4? One would think that if the church is in view in the first three chapters because the words ‘church’ and ‘churches’ are used 19 times, then shouldn’t we expect to find the word ‘Israel’ used more than once after chapter three if this entire seven-year period (something never mentioned in Revelation) is about Israel? The word ‘Israel’ does appear in 21:12, but the word ‘churches’ appears in 22:16.
Using the argument that the word church does not appear after Revelation 3 is a very poor argument in support of the rapture of the church since the ‘church’ is not mentioned in Revelation 1-3.
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