Absent Church?

Revelation is a message for, to, and about the church, the people of God, one concerned with its situation on the earth – Revelation 4:1-3

Clouds - Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash
After Jesus finished dictating his letters to the “
seven churches,” John saw an “open door in heaven” and heard the voice from his first vision summoning him to “come up here.” He then found himself standing before the “throne set in heaven.” Does this image symbolize the physical removal of the church from the earth prior to the book’s remaining visions? - [Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash].

After the close of chapter 3, the term “church” or ekklésia does not appear again until the epilogue in the book’s final chapter. Does this omission combined with the image of John rising to heaven mean the church is removed from the planet at this point in the narrative?

Since Revelation applies the noun “church” in the singular number to individual congregations rather than to all believers collectively, it is more accurate to ask, ‘Are the churches absent in Revelation?’ When the book does refer to all believers, it uses different terms, including “saints” and “witnesses.”
  • (Revelation 4:1-3) - “After these things, I saw a door set open in heaven, and the first voice which I heard as of a trumpet speaking with me, saying: Come up here, and I will show you the things that must come to pass. After these things, immediately, I came to be in Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, and upon the throne was one sitting.”

OMISSION

As for the omission of the word “church,” its absence until chapter 22 does not prove it has been removed from the earth. That suggestion amounts to an argument from silence (argumentum silento), and it ignores the other terms applied to the people of God in the book.

Furthermore, this idea overlooks the literary links between the seven letters to the “churches” and the book’s other visions.

In its entirety, Revelation is addressed to the “servants of God” identified as the seven “churches of Asia.” John described himself as a “fellow participant” with them in the “tribulation, kingdom, and endurance in Jesus.”

Rather than escape from persecution, the book exhorts the churches to endure whatever may come. In this way, believers will “overcome” and inherit the promises recorded in the seven letters when they reach “New Jerusalem” - (Revelation 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:26-28, 3:5, 3:21).

For example, the “innumerable multitude” composed of men from every nation are redeemed by the “blood of the Lamb,” as are the "overcoming" saints from the “churches of Asia.” Rather than escape tribulation, John saw this “multitude” exiting the “Great Tribulation” to “stand before the Lamb” and throne in “New Jerusalem” - (Revelation 1:5-6, 5:6-12, 7:9-17, 20:4-6).

PERSEVERE

In the letters to the “churches,” the seven congregations are summoned to “overcome” through perseverance, a challenge epitomized by the faithful endurance of the followers of the “Lamb” elsewhere in the book.

The faithful “endurance” of believers in the face of persecution is the definition of the “perseverance of the saints” those who have the “testimony of Jesus” - (Revelation 1:1, 1:18, 2:8-13, 3:21, 5:5, 12:11, 13:7-10, 14:12-13).

Church Dark Clouds - Photo by Stephan Heißmann on Unsplash
[Photo by Stephan Heißmann on Unsplash]

Following the expulsion of Satan, a voice declares that the “brethren overcame” him by the “blood of the Lamb, by their word of testimony, and because they loved not their life unto death.” 
Enraged, the Devil “departs to make war with the rest of her seed,” that is, those “who have the testimony of Jesus.” Surely these faithful saints were members of the “church” purchased by the blood of Jesus!

Next, the “beast from the sea” is authorized to “war against the saints and overcome them,” and “overcome” means kill. These martyrs are identified as those who “keep the faith of Jesus” - (Revelation 12:9-17, 13:1-10, 14:12).

Later, John sees “Babylon drunk with the blood of the saints and the witnesses of Jesus.” Previously, “saints” were identified as those who keep “the faith” and have the “testimony of Jesus.” Likewise, the victims of the “beast” were called “saints.” Here, they are identified as the “witnesses of Jesus” - (Revelation 17:1-6).

The book is addressed to the first-century congregations in Asia, and they do not fall out of the picture after chapter 3. Throughout Revelation, “saints” are the men and women from every nation who have been redeemed by the “blood of the Lamb.”

Rather than escape “tribulation” and martyrdom, overcoming “saints” persevere, and thus find themselves “coming out of the great tribulation” to stand victoriously before Jesus and the “throne.” They qualify to reign with him in the same way that he did – “Just as I also overcame and sat down with my Father in his throne.”

The suggestion that John’s ascent to the “throne” symbolizes the rapture or removal of the church from the earth to escape tribulation is contrary to the entire tenor of the book.



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