Kept From The Hour

Dr. Thomas Ice

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Because youhave kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour oftesting, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test thosewho dwell upon the earth.

—Revelation3:10

Critics ofthe pretrib rapture position often say that we cannot produce one singlepassage that teaches our position. I believe that Revelation 3:10 is a verse which answers their challenge. Of course they neglect the fact thatthey cannot produce one single passage teaching their view either. I believe that Revelation 3:10 is averse teaching that the church is promised exemption from the seven-yeartribulation period, thus supporting the pretrib rapture. In addition, posttribers cannot produceone verse supporting their assumption that the church will enter and passthrough the tribulation. We allagree that believers will be numerous throughout this seven-year period ofGod's wrath, but pretribers believe that they will not be the church. Therefore, the posttrib position isjust as much, even more so, a position based upon theological assumptions andarguments as they charge pretribers of being.

Keep Out

TheGreek phrase tereo ek (keep out) appearsto be used as a play on "kept My word" in 3:8 and "kept the word" earlier in3:10. That is to say, because youhave "kept" or "obeyed" my words during the present churchage, I will "keep" you from the time of another testing (thetribulation). The current time oftesting (church age) is a time in which the church is being tested throughtrials to verify her metal and determine one's place of rule in the comingkingdom (cf. Rev. 2:26-27; 3:21). This accounts for the reason why our Lord uses the phrase tereoek; it is a play on words where the deed isrewarded in kind. "Becauseyou . . ., then I will . . ."

Whenwe consider possible options that could have been used we see that tereo ek is the best possible option if our Lord wanted tomake a statement that would exclude the church from the tribulation. Only the phrase tereo ek would convey the absolute protection of the churchfrom the hour of testing by keeping them "out from" this time. Charles Ryrie notes, "the promise ofRevelation 3:10 not only guarantees being kept from Tribulation trials but fromthe Tribulation period itself. Thepromise is not, 'I will keep you from the trials.' It is, 'I will keep you from the hour of the trials.'"[1]

The verb tereo (keep) has the basic meaning of keeping something as itis. It is found 70 times in theGreek New Testament and 36 of those are in the writings of John. He used the word 11 times inRevelation,[2]which indicates that it is a term he favors when compared to other NewTestament writers. This is clearwhen we look at the leading Greek lexicon that breaks New Testament usage intothe following three nuances: 1) "to retain in custody, keep watch over, guard;"2) "to cause a state, condition, or activity to continue, keep, hold, reserve,preserve;" and 3) "to persist in obedience, keep, observe, fulfill, payattention to."[3] The lexicon cites Revelation 3:10 asfalling under the second definition. Thus, it conveys the notion of keeping or preserving one from enteringinto something else. In thecontext it is "the hour of testing."

The prepositionteaming up with tereo is ek (out of), which produces the composite thought, "keepout." John uses ek significantly more than does any other New Testamentwriter.[4] John Townsend, after an extensive studyof the use of ek in Greek including the New Testament concludes the following:

This study of ekthroughout its linguistic history, and especially its usage in the NewTestament, has shown that the preposition may sometimes indicate "outsideposition" (whereas at other times it means removal "out fromwithin"). In relation to theinterpretation of tereo ek inRevelation 3:10, this finding establishes the pretribulational position as abona fide grammatical possibility. To understand tereo ek asindicating preservation in an outside position is well within the bounds of thelinguistic history and usage of ek.[5]

The phrase tereoek is used one other place in John's NewTestament writings, which is John 17:15: "I do not ask Thee to take them out ofthe world, but to keep them from theevil one." Even though the firsthalf of the verse says that Christ will not take believers out of the world,the second half says that they will be totally protected from the evil one(Satan). The meaning of tereoek is that "Christ is praying that Hisdisciples would be kept away from and outof the power of the evil one and it is not implying that 'the evil once had power over them' (whichis a self-evident truth),"[6]notes John Sproule. Such astatement by our Lord is in concert with what John says in Revelation 3:10.

The Hour Of Testing

Now that we seethat Believers will be kept from something, we need to know what it is that wewill be preserved from. The textsays, "the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the wholeworld, to test those who dwell upon the earth." The "hour" or "time" of testing is what we will be keptfrom. Further, the hour of testingis said to be something that will in the future come upon the whole earth. Thus, it is clear that it is notsomething that happened in the days of the early church, since no one knows ofa global testing that came upon the whole earth in the first century. To cut to the chase, what John speaksof in this passage is the tribulation period, which is clearly a time in whichthe Lord will test the earth dwellers (always persistent unbelievers throughoutRevelation) and not church age believers.

This phrase "earth dwellers" is used eleven times in nine verses in Revelation (3:10;6:10; 8:13; 11:10 2xs; 13:8, 12, 14 2xs; 14:6; 17:8). As you examine each individual use, except 3:10, youwill see that all refer to a special class of stubborn sinners who are set intheir rebellion against the God of heaven. You will also find that the phrase is only used to refer to those during the tribulation period. Therefore, since the future hour spokenof by in 3:10 is set in contrast with the present set of believers in thechurch age, and the future "earth dwellers" will be active during the timeperiod in which believers are said to be kept from, it is clear that Johnspeaks of the time or hour of the tribulation. This is why 3:10 is a clearpromise that Christ will keep believers from the time of the seven-yeartribulation.

The Philadelphian Promise

Thepromise in Revelation 3:10 is a universal promise that is applicable to all thechurches, which says in 3:13: "He who has an ear, lethim hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (see also 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6,22). While our Lord's promise in3:10 is to the Philadelphia church, it is also a promise to the universalchurch as well. The same is true,for example, in the Book of Colossians when Christ tells them in 3:1 to"keep seeking the things above;" or to "set you mind on thethings above, not on the things that are on earth" (3:2). It is true that the Epistle was writtenhistorically to the Colossian believers and there are no passages thatspecially say these are universal passages for all believers, but whatChristian does not take them to be universal of all believers throughout thechurch age?

Isonly Philadelphia (and only those alive at the time of writing) to "holdfast what you have, in order that no one take your crown," since Christ iscoming quickly (3:11). Is onlyPhiladelphia to receive the name of God, the name of God's city, and a new nameat our Lord's coming (3:11)? Or,will all believers benefit from all the promises made to the sevenchurches? Certainly these promisesmade to first-century, Philadelphia believers are universal for the wholechurch. Therefore, 3:10 is apromise to the universal church. It is rare indeed for a posttriber to try to argue this point. They rather argue against other points,knowing that this issue is clear.

Conclusion

What does thismean? John Townsend summarizes asfollows:

Revelation 3:10 may then be paraphrased, "Because you haveheld fast the word which tells of My perseverance, I also will preserve you ina position outside the hour of testing" (NASB). This paraphrase points up an important nuance of meaningthat must be recognized. Tired ekin Revelation 3:10 does not describe the rapture as such. Instead, it describes the position andstatus of the church during the hour of testing. It describes the results of the rapture, not the raptureitself. Revelation 3:10 does notstate directly how the church will be preserved outside the hour of testing.However, the remainder of the verse indicates that the proper logical deductionis preservation by means of a pretribulational rapture of the church.[7]

Maranatha!

ENDNOTES



[1] Charles C.Ryrie, Come Quickly, Lord Jesus: What You Need To Know About The Rapture (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1996), p. 135.

[2] From asearch conducted by the computer program Accordance, version 7.4.2.

[3] WalterBauer, Frederick William Danker, William F. Arndt, and F. W. Gingrich, AGreek-English Lexicon of the New Testament,3rd edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), electronic edition.

[4] Based uponinformation from the computer program Accordance, version 7.4.2.

[5] Jeffrey L.Townsend, "The Rapture in Revelation 3:10" in Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy,editors, When The Trumpet Sounds: Today's Foremost Authorities Speak Out onEnd-Time Controversies (Eugene, OR: HarvestHouse, 1995), p. 373.

[6] (italicsoriginal) John A. Sproule, In Defense of Pre-Tribulationism: A Review ofRobert Gundry's "The Church and the Tribulation" (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1980), p. 27.

[7] Townsend,"The Rapture," p. 375.