It's normally taught that after Revelation 4:1, the Church is not seen again until chapter 19 of the book of Revelation. The Church is apparently NOT on earth between these two chapters.
To this apparent absence, the pre-trib Rapture proponent will add that the Tribulation is not focused on the Church. It is the Time of Jacob's Trouble and as such brings focus back to the nation of Israel.
But how does this thinking hold up to a more than cursory examination?
In every instance in the New Testament, including those in Revelation, the word saints is the same Greek word -- hagios. Rev. 5:8, 8:3, 8:4, 11:18, 13:7, 13:10, 14:12, 15:3, 16:6, 17:6, 18:24, 19:8, and 20:9 all use the word “saints.”
Let us examine these saints more closely to see if they look anything like the Church!
There are only TWO groups of people on the earth at the time of the Tribulation. There are the saints, and there are those 'whose names are not written in the book of life.'
"And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." (Rev. 13:7-8)
It may be stating the obvious, but if your name IS WRITTEN in the book of life of the Lamb, you are saved. If it is NOT, you are lost. Therefore, during the Tribulation, there will be both saved and unsaved people on the earth. Same as today.
These saints who have their names written in the Lamb's book of life will be able to enter the New Jerusalem, the city which is the Lamb's wife (Rev. 21:9).
"And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life."
So, there are two groups alive in the Tribulation. Those whose names are NOT written in the Lamb's book of life, whose destination is to be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). And, then there are those who are saints, who obviously have their name written in the Lamb's book of life, and who also have access to the New Jerusalem.
Sure sounds like the saints are members of the Church to me!
Could it be that they are not called the Church because the Church is an assembly, and they won't be able to assemble during this time? They will just be scattered saints?
Let's look at the Tribulation martyrs. Who are they? Revelation 7:9-14 says,
"After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;"
The Tribulation martyrs are NOT just of the nation of Israel.
"And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,"
They talk about salvation.
"Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?"
They are arrayed in white robes, which is righteousness! (Isa. 61:10, Rev. 19:8)
"And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
They owe their white robes to being washed in the blood of the Lamb! Christians have been "washed" (Rev. 1:5) in the blood of the Lamb!
Look at Revelation 6:9-11,
"And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?"
"And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled."
And more white robes.
These Tribulation saints are members of the Church. They have faith in Jesus and are "in" Him!
Look at Revelation 14:12-13,
"Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus."
"And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them."
Let's summarize what we have so far learned about these Tribulation saints:
- They are from all nations
- They are called saints
- They are in the book of life of the Lamb
- They are saved from the second death
- They have access to the New Jerusalem
- They are clothed in white robes (righteousness of God)
- They are washed in the blood of Jesus
- They are martyred for believing in Jesus
- They die ‘in the Lord’
Those who teach a pre-tribulation Rapture may not realize it, but they are proposing a group of Jesus-believing, blood-bought, New Testament saints who are 'in the Lord' but which are NOT part of the Church!
Their position brings up serious problems regarding the doctrines of salvation, justification, reconciliation, and redemption!