More from Dr. Walvoord’s concise commentary on the book of Revelation. This time dealing with a pretribulational view of the rapture. He writes:
The invitation to John to “come up here” [Rev 4:1] is so similar to that which the church anticipates at the rapture that many have connected the two expressions. It is clear from the context that this is not an explicit reference to the rapture of the church, as John was not actually translated; in fact, he was still in his natural body on the island of Patmos. He was translated into scenes of heaven only temporarily. Though there is no authority for connecting the rapture with this expression, this sequence does seem to typify the order of events: that is, the church age first, then the rapture, then the church in heaven.
Though the rapture is mentioned in letters to two of the churches (cf. 2:25; 3:10-11), the rapture as a doctrine is not a part of the prophetic foreview of the book of Revelation. This is in keeping with the fact that the book as a whole is not occupied primarily with God’s program for the church. Instead, the primary objective is to portray the events leading up to and climaxing in the second coming of Christ and the prophetic kingdom and the eternal state that ultimately will follow.
From a practical standpoint, however, the rapture may be viewed as having already occurred before the events of chapter 4 and following chapters of Revelation unfold. The word church, so prominent in chapters 2 and 3, does not occur again until 22:16, though the church is undoubtedly in view as the wife of the Lamb in Revelation 19:7. She is not a participant in the scenes of the tribulation that form the major content of Revelation.
It seems that the church as the body of Christ is out of the picture, and saints who come to know the Lord in this period are described as saved Israelites or saved Gentiles, never by terms that are characteristic of the church. Saints mentioned from this point on do not lose their racial background as is commonly done in referring to the church where Jew and Gentiles are one in Christ. At the beginning of chapter 4, then, the church may be considered as in heaven and not related to events that will take place on the earth in preparation for Christ’s return in power and glory. (98-99)
If you are interested in reading more on this classic commentary see my previous post: Dr. Walvoord’s Dream. Also, I recently learned of his book The Rapture Question which explores the four views of the church’s role in the tribulation: partial rapturism, pretribulationism, midtribulationism, and posttribulationism. (Yes, I’ve added it to my wishlist!)