I hear many Christians say, “the church isn’t mentioned after Chapter 3 of Revelation.” This, they say, means the church is raptured before the Great Tribulation.
But something hit me like a ton of bricks. Sure, the church isn’t mentioned after Chapter 3 of Revelation, but it isn’t mentioned before or during Chapter 3 either. Here’s what I mean. The book of Revelation begins with Jesus personally addressing seven specific churches, in a very specific geographic region. He does not address “the church.”
Specific Churches In A Specific Region
We always hear how these seven letters apply allegorically to “the church.” However, Jesus addressed these letters to seven specific churches in a specific geographic region. By doing so, Jesus is (allegorically) jumping up and down, waving his arms, and screaming at us to direct our end-times attention to this specific geographic region. But we simply refuse.
Here is why. Acknowledging the specificity of these letters would torpedo both the pre-tribulation rapture, and the revived Roman Empire– both of which are so popular because people let commentaries interpret the Bible, instead of letting the Bible interpret the Bible. So, because the specificity of the seven letters contradicts the generality of the commentaries, the church simply disregards the Bible. We must trust the Word of God over the word of commentary writers. Jesus did not address those letters to “the church.” Look at Chapter 1 of Revelation:
To the seven churches in the province of Asia… to  Ephesus,  Smyrna,  Pergamum,  Thyatira,  Sardis,  Philadelphia and  Laodicea. ~ Revelaton 1:4-11
We do not see “the church” addressed here. God makes it clear he is addressing the seven specific churches, “in the [specific] province of Asia.” Where did we get the right to erase the addresses on these end-times envelopes? We must heed God’s warning and focus our end-times attention where he wants it…
in. the. province. of. asia.
When we ignore such obvious details, how can an accurate hermeneutic possibly result? We correctly criticize Replacement Theology, whereby the church gives itself permission to replace Israel as God’s physical chosen people. But then we give ourselves permission to replace “the seven churches in the province of asia” with “every single church on the entire planet earth.” Just as there is no magic DNA potion that makes a physical gentile a physical Jew, there is no magic geography potion that transforms Ecuador into Thyatira, or London into Sardis, or New York into Laodicea. As I will show, God is drawing our attention to the region containing these seven churches because it will become very important in the end times.
“I’d rather be in Philadelphia.” ~ W.C. Fields
To the angel of the church in Philadelphia [Asia] write… Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. ~ Jesus Christ, Revelation 3:1
Many American Christians fancy themselves as belonging to “the church in Philadelphia.” In other words, they believe that because they endure patiently, they will be raptured before “the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world.” There are two problems with this replacement theology. The first problem is that these American churches are in America, not the Province of Asia. The second problem is that this verse says absolutely nothing about a rapture.
There is a famous quote attributed to W.C. Fields. “All things considered, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.” Fields was talking about Philadelphia, PA– the city of his birth, and the city he made the butt of many jokes. He was being sarcastic in that he was saying he would rather be in Philadelphia than in the grave, but that the grave was about the only place he would not choose over Philadelphia. Fields was actually from Philadelphia, PA, but did not warmly embrace his identity as such. The American church, in contrast, is not from Philadelphia, Asia, but does warmly embrace its identity as such– without any hermeneutic right to do so.
Jesus promises to keep this specific church, in Philadelphia, in the province of Asia, “from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.” Where in Revelation 3:10 is the word “rapture,” or “gathering,” or the words “meet him in the air,” or “be caught up,” or any word or term even remotely indicative of a rapture? In Revelation 3:10, we see yet another example of the pre-tribulation rapture being imposed upon the Biblical text, when the text says no such thing.
He will keep you strong to
seven years before the end… 1 Corinthians 1:8
The pre-trib rapture is everywhere in Christian culture (commentaries, books, conversation), but nowhere in the Bible. We hear Christians make statements such as “the Bible says the church will be raptured before the Great Tribulation,” and then they move on without citing the verse in which the Bible supposedly says this. I hear it all the time– from Bible teachers on the radio, and in conversations I have with other Christians. These are godly people, with hearts after God, and I say all of this with love and respect for them. Often when my fellow Christians bring up the pre-trib rapture, I ask them to show it to me in the Bible, and not a single one of them has done it. The vast majority refuse to even try.
If you don’t believe me, go listen to online sermons in which your favorite Bible teachers talk about the rapture. Whether you listen to 10, 100, or 1,000 of these sermons, you will never hear one of these teachers cite the verse in which the Bible states the church being raptured before the Great Tribulation– because no such verse exists. Again, I say all this with love and respect to my pre-trib brothers and sisters. I used to be one of you. But after reading the Bible cover to cover, I saw that the Bible clearly, repeatedly, and unambiguously states that the rapture happens at the Day of the Lord, not seven years before it. The rapture is post-tribulation.
Although the pre-trib rapture is nowhere in the Bible, it is so prominent in today’s Bible commentaries, that the church simply imposes it upon the Biblical text. I warn over and over on this website about relying on commentaries. The Bible is 66 books by 40 authors written over many centuries. God designed the Bible to be its own commentary. We have no need for external commentaries, and our heavy reliance upon them has injected false doctrines into the church, one of the biggest being the pre-tribulation rapture.
As a result, multitudes of Christians are taught that they will not experience the Great Tribulation. Now, when these Christians actually do experience the Great Tribulation, many will fall away from the faith. This is why I reject the inevitable disclaimer I get from pre-trib brothers and sisters every time I question the pre-trib rapture. The disclaimer goes like this: “It doesn’t matter whether we are pre-trib or post-trib. The rapture is a ‘non-essential’ issue. What matters is that we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.” This division of the Bible into “essential” and “non-essential” topics is completely unbiblical. Lives and souls hinge on the “non-essential” issues.
“Non-Essentials” Are Very Essential
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. ~ John 1:1
This verse inseparably weaves together Jesus, and God, and the Bible. To accept Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and Savior is to accept him as he is, not à la carte. We do not get to pick and choose which parts of Jesus are “essential” and which parts are “non-essential.” Do you want proof? Here it is:
When Jesus came the first time, his people had their “essentials” down perfectly. They went to synagogue, observed the holy days, and listened to their Bible teachers. These Bible teachers taught that Messiah would come to town on a horse. However, this was a “non-essential” issue, and very few people actually verified it with Scripture. Therefore, when Messiah rode into town on a donkey instead of a horse, multitudes of “believers” rejected him and went to hell. As a result of the “non-essential” issue of horse vs. donkey, multitudes are spending eternity separated from God. We do not get to pick and choose “essentials.” Every jot and tittle is essential, and we better get it right.
Now back to the seven churches in the Province of Asia.
In The Province Of Asia [not Europe!]… ~ Revelation 1:4
Church tradition has hardened into the shape of the mold into which it was poured– the commentary mold, which focuses our end-times attention on Rome and Europe. Therefore, we ignore God’s own words in Revelation 1:4, where he is trying to draw our eyes to Asia as the seat of the Antichrist. If Revelation 1:4 read like this:
To the seven churches in the province of Europe… ~ Revelation 1:4
Then it would support the commentaries, and it would be emphasized all the time. But it reads “Asia,” not “Europe.” Therefore it does not support the commentaries, which assert that the Antichrist will come from Europe, so the church simply ignores it. These letters are addressed to “the seven churches in the province of Asia.” Not one (NOT. ONE.) of those seven churches is in Europe. All seven (ALL. SEVEN.) of those churches are in the mother nation of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey!!!
The religious system of the Ottoman Empire was Islam, which matches every single criteria the Bible gives us for the Antichrist’s empire. Rome matches NONE.
In addition, no less an authority than Jesus Christ himself tells us the nation in which Satan has his throne– TURKEY!!! Yet we insist on moving it to Europe so that it fits the commentaries.
“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: I know where you live — where Satan has his throne…” ~ Jesus Christ, Revelation 2:13
Trust Jesus, not the commentaries.
The intense end-times focus God puts on Asia (not Europe) exposes the colossal (but honest) error we in the church have made by placing the entire weight of our eschatology on one verse:
…And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. ~ Daniel 9:26
By reading this verse through Western-centric lenses, we miss the fact that the Bible was written with a Middle-Eastern pen, not a European or North American pen. When we step back, remove our Western lenses, and put on Middle Eastern lenses, we see that the popular interpretation of this verse crumbles at the slightest scrutiny. Once this verse comes into focus, every end-times verse in the Bible comes into focus. Once this verse comes into focus, we take our end-times eyes off of Europe and a revived Roman Empire, and focus them on Asia and a revived Ottoman Empire– exactly where God wants them.
In Revelation 1:4, John points our end-times attention to “the Province of Asia.” Then, in the subsequent verses, he narrows this end-times focus by transcribing seven letters that Jesus dictates to seven specific churches that all reside in one Asian nation– Turkey! But John does not stop by focusing our end-times geographical attention. He also focuses our end-times historical attention. John does not want us to miss the fact that the Roman Empire (the empire of his time, the empire under whose rule he lived), is not the empire upon which the end-times generation needs to focus its attention:
“This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills [mountains, the Biblical theme for nations or empires] on which the woman sits [This is the “woman’s” territory, that is, the territory of the spiritual system of this seventh empire. The seventh empire was the Ottoman Turkish Empire, and the spiritual system of this seventh empire was Islam. Now, it is crucial to note that John repeatedly refers to this system as a “woman.” We must ask ourselves, does this fit? Is there anything in Mecca to which millions of Muslims make a pilgrimage each year that indicates that John was dead-on accurate with his “woman” imagery? Judge for yourself. The holiest place in Islam is the Kaaba black stone in Mecca. We have all seen images in which Muslim pilgrims walk around the Kaaba.
So, if we look inside the cube around which these pilgrims walk, the cube that is the central focus of Islam, do we see anything indicating that this religious system can be accurately described as woman? Do we see, perhaps, that it resembles the very part of a woman’s anatomy that defines her as a woman?
When we look inside this cube, do we see the astounding accuracy of the Bible? Absolutely.
Islamic tradition holds that the black stone you see inside fell from heaven– that is, it is a meteorite. Does this sound familiar? A female deity associated with a stone that fell from heaven? This exact demonic theme was written in the Bible, 600 years before Islam even existed. “The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Men of Ephesus, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis [goddess] and of her image, which fell from heaven?” ~ Acts 19:35. What we see in the Kaaba in Mecca is an old demonic theme in a fairly new setting. In fact, the black stone in the Kaaba may indeed be the very same stone mentioned in Acts 19:35. This harkens back to the prophetic words of Ecclesiastes 1:9, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” ~ Ecclesiastes 1:9. One last point, notice that in Acts 19:35, the meteorite is referred to as “her image.” This is crucial because the Antichrist will behead people who refuse to worship his image. We often hear that this image will be a hologram of the Antichrist. In other words, the image will look like him. This is nonsense. Right here in Acts, we see the Bible giving us the meaning of “image.” It is an idol, an object of worship. It need not look like a person. For crying out loud, 1.2 billion people bow to the “image” in Mecca five times every day! In addition, we have all seen videos of kidnapping victims, on their knees, with masked goons standing behind them. The kidnapping victim is then beheaded (just like the Bible says) for refusing to worship the image (just like the Bible says). What more proof do we need??? Now back to John’s words in Revelation.] They are also seven kings [kings, political leadership, this is the Bible interpreting itself and further confirming to us that the “seven hills” are not just geological mounds of dirt but indeed nations or empires]. Five have fallen [The five previous empires whose kings have fallen: 1. Egypt, 2. Assyria, 3. Babylonia, 4. Media-Persia, 5. Greece], one is [6. Rome, the empire in which John lived when he wrote this], the other has not yet come [the Islamic Ottoman Turkish Empire indeed succeeded the Roman Empire, exactly as John points out in this prophecy, yet modern Bible study ignores this fact, and stops at the Roman Empire]; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not [the Ottoman Empire was snuffed out by Western armies in the early 20th century, the death blow being dealt by British General George Allenby when he liberated Jerusalem from Ottoman rule in 1917], is an eighth king [this eighth king is the Antichrist]. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction. ~ Revelation 17:9-11.
I underlined “he” three times because this is a key to unlock 2 Thessalonians 2:7 in which Paul writes: “For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.” Today’s church interprets this “he” as the Holy Spirit even though Paul does not call it the Holy Spirit. Paul has no problem using the term “Holy Spirit” in other places in his letters, but he does not use it here because he was not referring to the Holy Spirit. John uses “he” to mean a political king and a political empire. Paul does the same thing. Paul gives us a huge hint that he is about to give a message within a message. In other words, he is about to communicate something that he cannot put into writing in case the letter is intercepted by the Romans. In 2 Thessalonians 2:5-7, Paul writes:
“Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? [wink, wink, hint, hint, Paul is figuratively kicking his readers under the table prompting them to remember what he told them in person because he can’t risk putting it in writing] And now you know [because I told you in person even though I can’t put it in writing] what is holding him [the Antichrist and his empire] back, so that he [the Antichrist and his empire] may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he [Caesar and the Roman Empire] is taken out of the way.” ~ 2 Thessalonians 2:5-7
Paul knew that the Antichrist would not be produced by Rome, but by the empire that came after Rome– the Ottoman Empire based in Turkey. Paul cannot write that the Roman Empire will eventually be replaced by another empire because this kind of disrespect to the Roman Empire would mean doom to Paul and the burgeoning Christian movement if the letter was intercepted by a Roman official. Paul is communicating a message within a message, as he often had to do in his epistles. He is being as wise as a snake, and as innocent as a dove, just as Jesus instructed. Paul writes “he” with the same connotation that John writes “he,” a political entity– not the Holy Spirit! Let the Bible interpret the Bible. Do not let the commentaries interpret the Bible.
God is screaming at us to direct our end-times attention to Turkey and Asia (not Rome and Europe). The Ottoman Empire, based “in the province of Asia,” perfectly matches every single Biblical criteria of the Antichrist’s empire, and the Roman Empire matches NONE of them. Today’s headlines support the Bible 100%. Turkey has turned on Israel after six decades of friendship. In recent years, Recep Erdogan has transformed Turkey’s government from that of a Western-style democracy, to the Islamist government role model for the entire Muslim world. His nation grows in influence every day. His nation becomes more hostile to Israel every day. His nation boasts a military larger than the militaries of England, France, and Germany combined. And his nation gets closer to its goal of a revived Ottoman Empire every day.
The Bible is always proven true.