Gary discusses the concept of “church ages” and what the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 represent.
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 “there is absolute silence.” Similar to the way Hitchcock places a gap in time between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel 9:24–27, he places the same 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.
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 a universal entity 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 because 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 (Gal. 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 corporate 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 is about Israel? The word Israel does appear in 21:12, but the word churches appears in 22:16.
The Rapture and the Fig Tree Generation
For decades Christians have been enticed with the belief that they would be taken to heaven before a coming tribulation period in an event called the ‘rapture.’ Since the national reestablishment of Israel in 1948, countless books and pamphlets have been written defending the doctrine assuring readers that it could happen at any moment.Buy Now
Gary discusses the concept of “church ages” and what the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 represent. Are we in the “last age,” the Laodicean age? Or could the text simply mean what it says and be referring to seven historical churches in the mid-first century? And does this mean that Revelation 2 and 3 mean nothing to us today?
 Mark Hitchcock, Could the Rapture Happen Today?, 73.