IS REVELATION 4:1 A PREVIEW OF THE RAPTURE?
by Shawn Brasseaux
In a sincere attempt to prove a pre-Tribulation Rapture—that is, that the Church the Body of Christ will be corporately resurrected and taken up into Heaven before the seven-year Tribulation begins—people will appeal to the Book of the Revelation. Specifically, they seize Revelation 4:1: “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.” Is this verse typical of the Rapture?
Dr. Scofield has the following footnote for Revelation 4:1: “This call seems clearly to indicate the fulfillment of 1 Thes. 4. 14-17. The word ‘church’ does not again occur in the Revelation till all is fulfilled.”
That note of the dear Brother is quite puzzling, my friends. There is no “clear” connection between the two passages—unless, of course, you generalize. For example, while they are both supernatural ascensions into Heaven, while they both include a “church,” and while both involve a “trumpet,” that is as far as you can relate them (and even these are not close associations when you actually study them). There are much more definitive dissimilarities than comparisons.
In this author’s view, the following points make a much more compelling case, one that contradicts the notion that Revelation 4:1 is a preview of the Rapture:
- Thessalonians involves a resurrection, glorified bodies given to saints (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58). Revelation is silent about John getting any new body.
- Thessalonians has a shout, voice, and a trumpet, with two blows (“trumps”) of a trumpet (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Revelation features a voice as it were of a trumpet. There is no literal trumpet in Revelation, only a simile… a voice likened to a trumpet.
- Thessalonians involves a group of people—some living and others deceased (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). Revelation has a single, living man (John)—not one dead individual is present there.
- Thessalonians speaks of an archangel present (1 Thessalonians 4:16). There is no archangel, or any angel, in Revelation 4:1.
- The words spoken to John in Revelation 4:1 are of particular interest here: “Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.” While the Bible does not say exactly what Jesus Christ will utter in His shout in Thessalonians, we can be sure that He will not say, “I will shew thee things to come.” The Rapture in Thessalonians is not meant to give prophetic insight, a glimpse into the future—this is nonsense. However, the Apostle John, a spiritual leader in Israel (Galatians 2:9), is receiving direct revelation from God concerning end times. He is God’s chosen vessel to deliver the capstone of the nation Israel’s prophetic information (the Book of the Revelation). In stark contrast, the Body of Christ in no way receives end-time (prophetic) messages at or after the Rapture.
THE DISPENSATIONAL DESIGN OF SCRIPTURE MUST BE RECOGNIZED AND RESPECTED
Notwithstanding the difficulties already enumerated, there are major problems in attempting to connect Revelation 4:1 with 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17.
Why would we expect to see a “preview” of the Rapture by appealing to John when he did not even have a ministry to the Church the Body of Christ? Never does John write about “the Church the Body of Christ”—that is strictly Pauline terminology. What are we doing consulting a circumcision apostle, John (Galatians 2:9), to provide us with information about us Gentiles? Does not Ephesians 3:2 say “the Dispensation of the Grace of God” was committed to Paul so he could give it to us Gentiles? What details would John give about a set of doctrine he did not even receive? The Rapture is the special coming of Christ to end the Dispensation of Grace. If the Dispensation of Grace was given to Paul, and Ephesians 3:2 says it was, then it is only logical to conclude that Paul alone would write about that special coming of Christ to close the Dispensation of Grace.
All the confusion comes as the result of not understanding the three churches in the Bible (Mosaic Church—Acts 7:38; Messianic Church—Matthew 16:16-18; Mystery Church—Ephesians 3:1-9). Today, in every facet of Christian thought and word, there is a general reference to “the church.” In books, sermons, and so on, preachers and teachers talk about “the church, the church, the church.” They are referring to present-day Christians corporately, but this is problematic because they have dropped the qualifier. They have been conditioned, and they are conditioning others, to believe the only church in the Bible is the group of Christians today. The word “church” is a generic term, and it should be qualified as much as possible. There is more than one church in the Bible than the Church the Body of Christ! If we are talking about Christians today, we should say “the Church the Body of Christ” as much as possible. “The church” is not enough. (This is why even “Church Age” is misleading; “Grace Age” or “Mystery Age” is a better term.)
If we do not make this distinction between churches clear, our audience will always approach the Bible with the “one-church” mentality. A similar confusion is the “one-gospel-in-the-Bible” notion. (This contradicts Romans 2:16, Galatians 2:7, Luke 18:31-34, and so on.) Another mixed-up idea is that of “there is only one baptism in Scripture”—water, water, water. (This contradicts Matthew 3:11, 1 Corinthians 12:13, and others.) Dear friends, we need to break away from shallow Bible thinking and get into the meat of Scripture! Let us not just repeat what others say.
The most basic error from which all the above others descend is a failure to, “Study… rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Prophecy is not separated from mystery, Peter is not divided from Paul, Law is not separated from Grace, Heaven is not divided from Earth, Israel is not separated from the Body of Christ. We see the word “church” in Acts 2:47 and conclude it must be the Church the Body of Christ. Roman Catholics see “church” in Matthew 16:18 and they believe it applies to people alive today. They do not see it as Messiah’s Church, which is what Matthew 16:16 says it is. It refers to those Jews who accepted Jesus as Messiah/Christ in His earthly ministry. There is no Church the Body of Christ until we come to Paul’s ministry (Acts chapter 9 onward). We do not read about “the Church the Body of Christ” in Scripture unless in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. If we get this straight, the Bible will become so astoundingly clear.
There are various other associated problems concerning the Church the Body of Christ being inserted into the Book of the Revelation. One of these—just as popular as Revelation 4:1 being the Rapture—involves chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation symbolizing the various stages of the Body of Christ throughout the 2,000 years of church history. Church history, it is said, ends by the opening of Revelation chapter 4 (verse 1 supposedly being the Rapture, remember). Again, this is to mix prophecy and mystery, to fail to understand that John was not sent to us Gentiles. Paul is “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13). If Paul does not mention something, it does not concern us and it is not what God is doing today. To then go grab something from John’s ministry and try to stick it on us is to abuse the dispensational boundaries so clearly evident in the Scriptures. It is to destroy Paul’s ministry and John’s ministry. It is to wreak havoc on the Bible text, to distort it beyond simplicity and verity (2 Peter 3:15-16).
Make no mistake, my dear readers. There is most definitely a pre-Tribulation Rapture, an evacuation of the Body of Christ from Earth before the Antichrist is revealed and begins those last seven years. Second Thessalonians chapter 2 makes that so very clear, as does 1 Thessalonians chapters 1, 4, and 5. Therefore, we do not need Revelation 4:1 to prove a pre-Tribulation Rapture. In fact, as we may very well know, Revelation is Tribulation ground. To find the Rapture in the Revelation is to fall into the trap in assuming the Rapture occurs during the Tribulation!