“5. Revelation does not use the word “Church” during chapters 4-19, therefore the Church does not correspond to the saints in those chapters.”

First of all, we need to make explicit the fact that this argument is in fact dependent on others. We need to identify what our criteria are for determining whether or not a passage refers to the Church. If a post-tribber or pre-wrather points to a group in Revelation and says, “That’s the Church!”, the pre-tribber will usually reply, “No, they’re Tribulation Saints because…they have to keep the Law, but the Church is saved by Grace [for example]!”

In this section I shall deal with the linguistic argument, and then my responses to the other arguments in this list will tackle the criteria/verses pre-tribbers use to justify the existence of “Tribulation Saints” as a distinct, non-Church group.

Again, we have recourse to the word-concept fallacy. The meaning of words is determined by context. The choice of a different word, while implying different nuances, does not necessarily mean a different subject is being described. I can describe Obama as “Commander-in-Chief” and as “President of the United States” (POTUS); am I referring to two different men? Answer: no. I am in fact employing different nouns to describe different roles and duties involved in the exercise of his office.

Thus the absence of the word “Church” does not ipso facto mean that the Church is absent from the world during Antichrist’s Great Tribulation. When asked to point out the Church in Revelation, the pre-wrather or post-tribber can cite a number of verses:

a) Rev. 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.”

b) Rev 7:13-14:

And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? 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.”

c) Rev. 12:17:

And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

d) Rev. 13:7:

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.

At this point the pre-tribber replies, “They’re called ‘saints’, not ‘the Church’!” But the pre-wrather replies, “So what? The Church is referred to as “saints” in the opening of many of Paul’s letters: e.g. 1 Cor. 1:2; Rom. 1:7. Why are the “saints” in those passages the Church, but not in these ones from Revelation?” In other words, other criteria required to prove that the saints in the middle section of Revelation are not the Church: the linguistic argument is not sufficient.

The other issue that sometimes gets thrown in with the Church/saints problem is the use of “kings” and “priests” in Revelation. The pre-tribber will rightly claim that the Church is represented in Heaven by those who sing, “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth”, in Rev. 5:10 (cf. 1 Peter 2:9). But when it comes to the group in Rev. 7, who have come out of the Great Tribulation, then the pre-tribber says, “They can’t be the Church, because they aren’t called kings or priests!” 

How is this group described?

They “serve [God] day and night in his temple” (7:15). This sounds like a description of priestly activity to me: cf. Deut. 21:5, “And the priests the sons of Levi shall come near; for them the Lord thy God hath chosen to minister [=serve] unto him”. This again comes under the word-concept fallacy. By their actions we can determine that they may be functioning as priests or Temple attendants. Similarly, those who are resurrected and reign with Christ during the Millennium in Rev. 20 are said not to belong to the Church because the word “kings” is not used of them. But they are described as “reigning”, which is the function of a king, and the verb chosen in Greek to communicate this concept can also be translated “be a king”. Rev 20:4 in the Greek reads, “και εβασιλευσαν μετα Χριστου” – well the Greek word for king is “βασιλευς”. See the resemblance? To admit that these people are part of the Church is to admit that the Church will go through the Tribulation, because this group is beheaded for their testimony – cf. Rev. 13:10, “ He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”

Other criteria are needed to determine whether these people are part of the Church or not, and these will be addressed in following posts.