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Paul J. Bucknell
The issue with those who love the scriptures is not if there is a rapture but when it will take place. Others accept either a mid-tribulation, post-tribulation rapture or others prefer to simply identify it as the time of Jesus return and not relate it to the tribulation. Our issue here is not to debate the timing but to examine the support the pre-tribulationists find from Revelation for their viewpoint. In doing so, they reinterpret key Revelation teaching points to fit their prophetic scheme.
What follows, then, is an examination of their three most definitive arguments to insert the rapture before the tribulation period from the Book of Revelation. Study questions are also provided. The third problem is identified below. (Problem 1; Problem 2)
4:4 “And around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.” (NASB)
The 24 elders refers to the raptured church.
This verse is used to verify that the pre-tribulation rapture has taken place. The pre-tribulationists generally agree that the 24 elders refer to the raptured church who are by then in heaven rather than on earth. This is meant to support their position. We can agree that the 24 elders are seen to be in heaven around the throne but to equivocate their identify with the raptured church seems forced rather than stated. Is it possible? Yes, but not taught.
There are several suggestions as to the identity of the 24 elders, but we need not venture into that discussion but only to show that nowhere does it state that this is the raptured church.
One of the most basic rules of hermeneutics is that one uses what is clearly taught to help understand that which is not understandable. This passage with the 24 elders remains to be one of the hotly disputed discussions in Revelation. We do not argue whether this passage excludes the possibility of being the raptured saints but the willingness to use this unclear passage to support the unstated pre-tribulation rapture.
If the church is in heaven, then there should not be any saints on earth (except at first the suggested converted Jews). But what do we see? We see that there are saints on the earth as the opening of the fifth seal indicate.
And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, should be completed also (Rev 6:11).
Yes, some have died in the Lord–note not raptured nor escaped the tribulation, but some brethren were yet to be killed (11)! We can understand the other viewpoint that this refers to those who came to know the Lord after the rapture of the church but on what basis are we so sure this is true? One cannot have it both ways. Either the saints died before the rapture and did not escape the tribulation or the church was still present on the earth!
In conclusion, the 24 elders are not proof that the rapture has taken place for their identify is unclear.
Who do you think the 24 elders are in 4:4? Why so?
On what basis do the pre-tribulationists interpret the 24 elders to be the raptured church?
Read chapters 6 and 7. Please state any indication(s) that some saints have not been raptured but are still on the earth.
Pre-tribulationists use several other minor points (that we have not discussed) when trying to support their viewpoint from the Book of Revelation, but they do not substantially change the faulty hermeneutic of their major assumptions seen above. Because of their faulty support for this theory, pre-tribulationists would be better to stop allowing interpretations formed by major hermeneutical errors twist their viewpoint of Revelation.
Moreover, since many believers are under the spell that God is love and will never bring His people into the tribulation, they should earnestly begin to confess their poor hermeneutical workmanship and point to how God’s people should be prepared if they are to go through the tribulation. This need for endurance is the theme of Revelation and to skirt this crucial truth away from the suffering saints counters God’s purpose of strengthening and comforting His people who are about to go through the tribulation.
Perhaps the pre-tribulationists want to hold onto their teaching. That is fine, except they should not do it on the basis of Revelation or ‘guck’ up Revelation’s main purposes. Recognize that some saints will go through the tribulation, and God is still glorified and still to be known as a loving God–One who marks His people and keeps them for eternity.
BFF Bible articles teach with a clear purpose of training us in righteous so that we might be those men of God ready for the tasks God has set before us, including training others to follow Jesus (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted:
(C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988