In studying eschatology, I haven’t found a sufficient solution to the long absence of any mention of Christ’s church after the letters to the churches in the first three chapters. Specifically, during the Great Tribulation. Many scholars have written that this is evidence of a pretribulational rapture, but this doesn’t seem to be sufficient evidence. Is there another explanation, maybe rooted in a better understanding of the original language that I don’t have?
It is true, as commented, that 'churches' is spoken by 'I, Jesus' in what might be called the 'epilogue' of the book, Revelation 22:16, but I understand the point of the question and I am answering the spirit of the question, regarding the body of the whole book, as such.
One view of the entire book of Revelation is that there are seven sections, which are clearly marked out by the repetition of what is obviously the last judgment, and that each section views the entire Church Age from a different and more progressively spiritual aspect, layer upon layer.
The layered, repetitive narrative therefore separates out different features and states them in different contexts in such a way as to be ordered, the complexity of what is envisaged being simplified by the layer upon layer narrative.
Thus, in this view, the first section is to be understood, as are all the seven sections, as relevant to the entire age, not to just the beginning of the age, not to just the first or second century of the age, but is an expression of what will pertain throughout the entire history of the church till the end of time.
This view is expressed in the most comprehensive way that I have ever read in John Metcalfe's book entitled 'The Revelation of Jesus Christ'.
The 618 page book first covers the variety of ways in which the Apocalypse is generally viewed and comprehensively compares these interpretations, before thoroughly expounding the historically repetitive view in the remaining pages.
In this view, all the numbers in the book (seven eyes, seven spirits, seven plagues, 1,260 days and so on) are viewed symbolically, never historically, and the period of time, 10x10x10 years, is also viewed in symbolic terms.
In short, my own answer is that the word 'church' is used in the first section because that is what the first section concentrates upon. The rest of the book covers other aspects and the servants of God and the martyrs of God are visible, but not seen as the church, as such, in those sections.
Thus the church is present throughout the narrative, but viewed only in the first section as gathered companies. The church is present throughout the age from the ascension of Jesus Christ until his promised return.
The second question regarding the wrath of God requires a more comprehensive answer and I suggest that be addressed as a separate question.
Generally, Stack Exchange, and this site in particular, prefer to process one question at a time as the procedures are set up to do so.
I agree with Nigel’s perspective that the “church is present throughout the age from the ascension of Jesus Christ until his promised return.” This begs the question of when his return is mentioned in Revelation.
1 Cor. 15 52 associates the resurrection of the saints with the last trumpet.
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
Interestingly enough, there is a last trumpet mentioned in Revelation 11:
15Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” 16And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17saying, “We give You thanks, Lord God, the Almighty, the One who is and who was, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. 18And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the [m]saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.” NASB
The dead in Christ are raised, then those who are alive and remain are caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and then the wrath comes, destroying those who have corrupted the earth. This happens with the 7 bowls of wrath being poured out on the earth in Revelation 16. The dead who were raised and the raptured will reign with Christ in the millennium as described in Rev. 20.
5The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
If you use the absence of ekklesia during the tribulation chapters to show that the church is not present, you would have to be consistent and agree that no raptured saints are mentioned as being in heaven at that time either. Only martyred saints are mentioned and it is clearly stated that God is waiting for the quota of martyrs to be completed before Christ intervenes with the rapture which occurs in Revelation 14.
Rev 6 9When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.
Rev 14 14Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. 15And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.
It is not pleasant to contemplate but it is important to be prepared for the truth which is why hermeneutics is invaluable. The church is clearly on earth during the tribulation.