Revelation 015 – Kept From the HourRevelation 3:10 • Dr. Andy Woods • September 16, 2018 • Revelation
Dr. Andy Woods
Kept from the Hour 9-16-18
Revelation 3:10 Lesson 15
Good morning everybody. Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 3, and verse 10. The title of our message is Kept from the Hour. We have been working our way through the Book of Revelation, we have been looking at the things our Lord has been saying to the church at Philadelphia. And right in the middle of His exhortation to the church at Philadelphia we read these words: “Jesus said because you have kept My perseverance I will also keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth.
And what we’ve just entered into is one of the most hotly debated verses, not only in the Book of Revelation but perhaps in the whole Bible. So as God allows it we’re going to be spending all of this morning on verse 10 and we still might not even finish it.
But notice if you will the first part of verse that verse, notice what the Lord says. He says, “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world….” That raises sort of an interesting question, doesn’t it? Well, what if I don’t do my part? What if I’m not persevering enough? A lot of people will tell you well, if you’re not persevering enough then you miss the rapture, which is what the rest of this verse, as I’ll be revealing to you, teaching you this morning, indicates.
There is a view out there and some of you may be familiar with the rapture debate, some may not, but there is a view out there called the partial rapture theory. And I can’t tell you how many Christians I know struggle because they’ve been taught this theory. The partial rapture theory goes something like this: well, you’d better be living and righteous because if the Lord comes at a specific instance when you’re not living holy and righteous, for example, you’re in that movie theater watching a movie that you shouldn’t be watching and the rapture occurs at that point you’re going to be left right there in your seat and you’re going to be (to quote the late Timothy LaHaye) Left Behind. It’s called the partial rapture theory. And so the partial rapture theory basically argues that the purpose of the tribulation period, which is going to be described as we move through the Book of Revelation, is to straighten out those carnal Christians, partial rapturism.
This verse, Revelation 3:10, is a key verse that they use to argue for partial rapturism. Let me just make some generic comments about partial rapturism first before I show you what I think is a proper way to interpret verse 10
What are some problems with partial rapturism? Number 1, every divine blessing that we have is by God’s grace, even including your spiritual gifts, your salvation. And so that would also include and encompass part of what I like to call the grace package, your participation in the rapture.
Beyond that we have some problems with what we call symbolic parallels. Take the situation of Lot. You know, Lot in the Old Testament, the best I can tell, doesn’t really look like a believer at all but he is called a believer in the New Testament; he’s called a righteous man. 2 Peter 2:7-8, positionally righteous but he wasn’t practicing it. [2 Peter 2:7-8, “and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men  (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds),”]
And when you study Genesis 19:22 what you’ll learn is the angel that came to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, even to backslidden Lot, (are you a lot like Lot), we can backslide, can’t we, in the Christian life. [Genesis 19:22, “Hurry, escape there, for I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” Therefore, the name of the town was called Zoar.”] The destroying angel came and said “I cannot,” he didn’t say I will not, “I cannot” Genesis 19:22, destroy Sodom until you are removed. God cannot bring the tribulation period upon the earth until all His blood bought people are removed.
Beyond that the promise of the rapture is mentioned in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians church. Now do we know anything about the Corinthians church? Some have called 1 Corinthians 1 Californians because of the backslidden nature of that church. And yet what does Paul say when he talks about the rapture to that church? 1 Corinthians 15:51, “we will all be changed. [1 Corinthians 15:51, “Behold, I tell you a mystery;] we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 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.”] He never says well, you’d better be living right or you’re going to be left behind.
Beyond that if the Lord were to rapture some people and leave others behind what would that do to Christ’s body? It would divide it, something that can’t happen. And beyond that it would subject certain believers to God’s wrath. You see, the carnal folks (according to this theory) that are left behind will go into the wrath of God and the wrath of God is there to get them straightened out. The problem with that is we are told, 1 Thessalonians 1:10 that we are exempted from the wrath of God. [1 Thessalonians 1:10, “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.”]
Partial rapturism when you think about it makes the Bema Seat Judgment of rewards unneeded. You see, following the rapture of the church we will stand before the Lord at the Judgment Seat of Christ and we will either be given rewards or deprived of rewards; our salvation is not an issue at that point, based on how we allowed the Lord to express Himself through us during our life in Christ.
Now think about this for a minute; if only the pure Christians living right are raptured and then the point of the tribulation period is to straighten out all of the impure Christians and they, according to this theory get raptured to heaven one by one as they get straightened out in their daily life, then there would be no point really in the Bema Seat Judgment. There would be no deprivation of reward for a Christian that’s not living holy because at that point everyone will be living holy.
Beyond this partial rapturists are very, very biased. Many of them will teach this theory that the holy Christians are taken, the unholy Christians are left behind and everybody I’ve ever encountered that teaches this theory assumes that they are the ones that are going to be taken. And somehow it’s the rest of us that are going to be left behind. And if I had some time to go into this theory, partial rapturists misapply verses constantly apply verses constantly. They take verses aimed at rewards and apply it to the rapture; they take verses aimed at Israel and apply it to the rapture. And so that’s just sort of a synopsis, if you will, of partial rapturism and why we as saints here at Sugar Land Bible Church reject theory.
Now if the theory is to be discarded then what in the world do we do with verse 10 or Revelation 3, which says, “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, [to test those who dwell on the earth.]” It reads, does it not, like there’s a condition that has to be met in the life of the child of God, other than faith alone in Christ alone, in order to participate in the rapture. And because the verse reads this way it has always bothered me, for a number of years, as to how to interpret this particular verse. But, fortunately, through the Chafer Theological Seminary Journal I came upon the writings of John Niemela, a Greek scholar, and let me share his findings with you and see if this doesn’t fit better with our theology.
Niemela, in his journal article, The Interpretation of Revelation 3:10: You Have Kept My Word, CTS Journal; As summarized by Dennis Rokser, A Golden Nugget in Revelation 3:10, Grace for the Race, no. 29. makes some important points. He says here are some things that are not part of the original Greek manuscripts: chapter divisions, verse divisions, punctuation marks like periods or commas or exclamation points. And we say well how did that stuff get in there, why do we have chapter divisions, verses divisions, periods, exclamation points. Those are added later by copyists of the original manuscripts but they were never part of the original manuscripts. And so what happens is most English translations separate the two verses, verses 9 and 10, with a period. In other words, the way it reads in most English translations, including the New American Standard Bible which is the version I use, you have a statement made by Christ about people coming, and we covered it last week, that will one day bow, the enemies of Philadelphia will bow before the feet of the Philadelphians. And then in your English version probably what it has is a period and then it begins verse 10 with a capital letter, Because, and it makes it look like the Because is a condition to participate in what follows in verse 10, the rapture.
And John Niemela’s point is simply this: those punctuation marks, commas and exclamation points and chapter divisions and verse divisions, those really are not part of the original text. But most people think they are and thus it becomes a cause in the minds of many people for participating in the rapture. John Niemela in his article makes the very simple point that the period is placed in the wrong place. If you’re going to place the period somewhere you don’t place it at the end of verse 9, you should place it in the middle of verse 10 so the passage would read as follows: “See, I will make them come and bow down at your feet and they will know that I have loved you,” the sentence continues, “because you have kept My enduring word.” And then what follows is an unconditional promise, “I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is about to come upon the whole earth.”
In other words, what he’s saying is the condition becomes a cause, not for participating in the rapture but a cause for their enemies to bow down at their feet as described in the prior verse. In other words, your enemies are going to come down and bow at your feet one day because you have been obedient to Me, end of idea. Then the idea starts afresh and he begins to talk about the unconditional promise of the rapture of the church. That way Revelation 3:10, the second half of the verse, becomes an additional unconditional promise of the rapture, a promise that God unconditionally gives to the child of God regardless of daily life or daily performance.
You see, your daily life and daily performance as a Christian is going to be evaluated at the Bema Seat Judgment; the rewards that we will receive or not receive are very much conditioned. But that’s not true with your participation in the rapture. The rapture is coming and if you are “in Christ” whether Paul says asleep or awake, you’re going in the rapture; you might even go kicking and screaming but you’re going nonetheless.
Now why does John Niemela think this way? He thinks this way because he says this: It is rare to begin a sentence in Greek with the word “because,” it’s the Greek word hoti and he says instead hoti, because, when causal in function usually follows a promise rather than something that precedes a promise. So the condition is not for participating in the rapture, the condition is whether the enemies of the church in Philadelphia will bow down before that church, because they’ve kept their condition of obedience that will become a reality. Then he starts a brand-new idea about the unconditional nature of the rapture.
So, John Niemela writes, “Thus Greek sentences rarely begin a sentence with the phrase “because you have” when explaining the cause or reason for something as Greek and English texts of Revelation 3:10 unfortunately do today. Instead the “because” phraseology consistently follows later in the sentence.” And so you say well, the NASB doesn’t do it this way, the NKV doesn’t do it this way, are there any English translations out there that do follow what you’re talking about. In fact, there is a translation that does that, it’s called the McDonald’s Idiomatic Translation an English Translation, MIT for short, and notice what they do here. “The sentence reads as follows: ‘I will put at your disposal those from the synagogue of Satan who all themselves Jews but are lying. See, I will make them bow down before Your feet and they will know that I have loved you.” Why? We have a condition that’s been met, “because you have kept My enduring Word.”
And then what should follow is a period meaning end of idea and then Jesus, out of His goodness reminds the church of Philadelphia of a promise that they have that is not conditioned on human performance at all, the rapture. The fresh idea starts right there in the middle of verse 10, which says, “I will also keep you from the hour or trial that is to come upon the whole earth.” And I discovered John Niemela’s writing on this I couldn’t tell you how excited I was, I’m probably more excited about it than you are, and that’s why you guys are sort of victims and guinea pigs to some of the insights I find. But it resolves something for me that has always bothered me. I knew that the rapture was something that was unconditional in nature but it looked like verse 10 provided a condition when in reality John Niemela is saying there is no such condition for the rapture. The condition is for what precedes, not for what follows. And if Dr. John Niemela is right and if the MIT translation is correct then probably the very last verse that a partial rapturist could ever use is demolished. The rapture, participation in it, is by divine grace.
That’s kind of a heavy way to start for the first 15 minutes on a Sunday morning, isn’t it? No jokes, not poetry just get right into the Greek grammar.
But let’s take a look here at the second part of verse 10 and let’s see if we can explain this: it’s an unconditional promise as we’ve said. What exactly is being promised? What does Jesus say to the little struggling church at Philadelphia. He says, “I will also keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is to come upon the whole world.” [Revelation 3:10] What is this talking about? And as you probably know there’s a big debate on this. Is this talking about being sustained through the tribulation period? Many people argue that. Or is this talking about not being protected or sustained through the tribulation period but kept out of that time period entirely? That’s the debate, that’s why I’ve entitled this message “Kept from the Hour,” not Kept Through the Hour, “Kept From the Hour.” As you probably know there are many debates about the rapture of the church, when does the rapture take place relative to the tribulation period. In fact there’s so much acrimony on this you feel like you’re in the tribulation period itself trying to navigate your way through all these debates.
But at the top of the screen we hold to what we think is the correct view, pretribulationalism, we will not see any part of that hour. We’ll be removed before that time period really starts. But beneath it, and here it is in graphic form, you have mid tribulationalists, people that believe that we’re going to be here for the first half of the tribulation period; post tribulationalism, people that believe we’re going to be here for the whole tribulation period. And if all of this wasn’t complicated enough along comes another view in the 1990, pre-wrath rapturism (they call themselves) which I think is a very misnamed title because pre-tribulationalism is pre-wrath. We think the wrath of God is the whole tribulation but they say no, it’s the final 25% of it. So therefore, the church will be here for roughly 75% of the tribulation period, “comfort one another with these words.” [Laughter]
And you know, the rapture question, the rapture discussion may be something completely new to you but what I’d like to convince you of by God’s grace is I want you to leave here with certainty, belief, conviction, that Revelation 3:10 along with a plethora of other verses is talking about the view at the top of the screen that I had earlier, pretribulationalism, we are going to be kept out of this time period entirely. Why do I think that? This is going to be a fast Bible study, right? NO, because there’s eleven questions we have to ask and answer. So, let’s see if we can look into this a little bit more carefully.
The first reason why I think we will not be here for any part of this tribulation period is this: if God were to communicate that we were going to be sustained through the tribulation period, protected through the tribulation period, there were other obvious ways for Him to get across this point.
Renald Showers puts it this way, a pretribulationalist. He says, “The idea of the saints being shielded from the testing while living within or through this time period also would have been expressed more clearly through the use of another preposition, either en, (meaning in), or dia (meaning through),” two words by the way that aren’t found in Revelation 3:10, “[thus I will keep you in or through the time period of testing] rather than” what the Lord uses, what John records, to describe this, the Greek preposition “ek,” which we’ll make reference to in a minute. It wouldn’t say ek, which means out of, it would have a completely different preposition “in” or “through” but Revelation 3:10 doesn’t say that. So, you might be able to interpret Revelation 3 verse 10 as you’re going into the tribulation period, but there are a lot easier ways to communicate that had that been the Holy Spirit’s intention.
Question number two, will God actually protect believers during the tribulation period? In other words, if Revelation 3:10 means that God will protect believers in the tribulation period then quite frankly He does a terrible job of it because as we progress through the Book of Revelation what do we see over and over again of the believers that come to Christ in that time period? We see rampant martyrdom! A lot of people look at this as it’s going to be sort of like it was in the days of Moses in Goshen, where the plagues came upon the land of Egypt but God’s people protected in the land of Goshen were supernaturally protected. A lot of people envision it like it’s going to happen in Exodus 9:6, “So the LORD did this thing on the next day, and all the livestock of Egypt died; but of the livestock of the sons of Israel, not one died.” So, they say look, we’re going to be in it but we’re going to be protected from the judgments.
And there are quite frankly a couple of examples where that does happen, Revelation 9:4 you’ll see God’s people shielded from a certain judgment. [Revelation 9:4, “They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.”] Revelation 16:2, God’s people are shielded from a certain judgment. [Revelation 16:2, “So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.”] But let me tell you something, that is not what the Book of Revelation by and large is talking about.
In fact, Revelation 6:9-11 talks about massive martyrdoms and it talks about the martyrs under the altar crying out to God for justice. What happened to the divine protection of them during the tribulation period? [Revelation 6:9-11, “When 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;  and 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?”  And 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.”]
In fact, John sees in Revelation 7:13-14 a group of martyrs that’s so large they can’t even be numbered. [Revelation 7:13-14, “Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”] Revelation 13:10 says, “If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here it’s calling for the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” The saints are being killed over and over again in the Book of Revelation. You’ll see the same thing in Revelation 13:15, Revelation 20:4. [Revelation 13:15, And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.” Revelation 20:4, “Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”]
I mean, if the idea is God is protecting His people through the tribulation period, not only is that a very weird way of communicating that but God Himself really isn’t doing much of a job.
And beyond that, how in the world do you interpret the promises of comfort. Every time the rapture is introduced, I think it’s introduced for the first time in the Upper Room, John 14:1, Jesus just starts to describe the rapture and what does he say? “Do not let your heart be troubled….” Does that statement really make any sense if you’re going to go into the tribulation period and be martyred… oh by the way guys, you’re going to go through the tribulation period, a lot of you are going to be killed but don’t let your heart be troubled, comfort one another with these words. How is that exactly the blessed hope of the church?
There’s a third question that has to be asked and answered to come to some king of certainty on this subject of the rapture based on Revelation 3:10. [Revelation 3:10, “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”] What in the world does it mean when it says Jesus is going to keep you (Philadelphia) from the hour of trial? Notice what Christ says, “Because you have kept My word I will also keep you,” now that’s the Greek preposition ek, “from the hour of testing which is to come upon the whole world. There is a great battle over that preposition ek.
Charles Ryrie writes this: “Posttribulationists say that ‘from’ (ek) refers to protection of the church within the Tribulation. Pretribulationalists” that would be us, “understand it to mean preservation by being absent from the time of tribulation. One is internal protection (while living through the Tribulation); the other is external protection (being in heaven during that time). Which meaning does ‘from’ or (ek) support? The answer is either, if the preposition is considered alone. But for the record, let it be said that ek does denote a position outside something, something without. The pretribulationist understanding of ek is supported by a number of verses that have nothing to do with the rapture and therefore do not beg the question.” [Charles C. Ryrie, What You Should Know About the Rapture, Current Christian Issues (Chicago: Moody, 1981), 114-15]
Let me show you a few other verses on this. Remember Matthew 7:5, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” That’s the preposition ek, it means removal. It can certainly mean that in many, many contexts. And what I want you to see in Revelation 3:10 is there’s three things: number one, keep, that’s the verb tēreō. Number two, ek, that’s the preposition from. And number three, “the hour of testing.”
So, let’s see if we can find that same three-fold combination elsewhere in the Bible. In fact, it occurs quite frequently. Notice Acts 15:29, “that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep” not that’s our same verb tēreō, this one is diatēreō which just adds a little intensification but it’s the same verb. “…if you keep yourselves free” that’s out of, “such things you will do well.” Notice that ek and diatēreō are used together in a combination communicating get away from these things sacrificed to idols. He’s not saying enjoy these things 75% of the time. He’s saying get away from them completely. That same combination is found in Revelation 3:10 relative to the hour of trial that’s soon coming upon the whole earth. [Revelation 3:10, “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”]
Or how about this one, John 12:27, this one’s interesting because John is writing, just like the Book of Revelation, Jesus is speaking just like our passage in the Book of Revelation and it talks also about an hour of divine wrath, the time period when the Son of God paid the full penalty for our sins and the same combination shows up. John 12:27, “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save” sozo very similar to tēreō. “save me from” ek, “save me from what? “this hour.” The time of your wrath and of course that’s a prayer request the Lord never answered because as we know Jesus bore the wrath of a holy God the Father in our place. But you notice what Jesus is praying here through this same three-fold combination. He’s not saying I want to go through half of the crucifixion, or three quarters of the crucifixion. He’s saying in My humanity I want to be kept out of it completely.
Now that’s the same three old combination of ek, a similar verb and a time of wrath that’s employed in Revelation 3:10. [Revelation 3:10, “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”] Jesus is not telling us we’re going through part of it, half of it, three-quarters of it, all of it, He’s saying you’re going to be out of it completely.
Or how about this combination, Colossians 1:13,” For He rescued” very similar to keep, “He rescued us from” ek, “rescued us from” what? “the domain of darkness.” When you placed your personal faith in Christ your whole position changed, you were taken out of the domain of darkness. As a Christian you’re not 75% saved; you’re completely out of the domain of darkness. That same combination is used in Revelation 3:10.
How about this combination. Now if you’re dealing with midtribulationists, posttribulationalists, they’re going to take you to John 17:15 at some point. What does John 17:15 say? “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep” that’s our same verb, “them from” or ek, the same preposition, “from the evil one.” Now non-pretribulationalists come along and they’ll quote John 17:15 and they’ll say look, there it is, the same combination, tēreō, plus ek, and here Jesus is saying you’re going to stay in the world.
In fact, John Piper, who is a big denier if you will, of the doctrine of pretribulationalism uses this verse to support his view. He made this statement when the Nicolas Cage movie came out featuring Left Behind pretribulationalism, he was trying to debunk it before it got out of the gate. This is an interview that he gave. John Piper believes that the main scripture which some believers support the pretribulational rapture viewpoint, Revelation 3:10, our passage, does not necessarily mean that believers are taken away from the earth, however it could mean that God will keep or protect His people from evil during the tribulational period.
Notice here he is citing Revelation 17:15. So you have to look at Revelation 17:15 carefully. What are we being kept out of in John 17:15. [John 17:15, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.”] What are we being kept out of? What’s the promise? To be kept out of the domain of the evil one. That’s the promise. Would you say that when you got saved you are completely kept out of the domain of darkness in terms of your position? Does God sort of leave you 75% in Satan’s kingdom? He may leave us on the earth to do His will but as far as our position is concerned we are 100% changed.
We are 100% removed from the influence of Satan and into the kingdom of His beloved Son. That’s why 1 John 5:18 says, “We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.” Did you know that as a child of God Satan himself doesn’t even have the ability to wage war on your soul without divine permission? Ask Job about that sometime when you get to heaven, when God lowered the hedge of protection.
Why would 1 John 5:18 say this? Because it’s saying we are 100% changed; 100% kept out of Satan’s domain even though we remain physically upon the earth. And so, when John Piper uses John 17:15 to argue for postribulationalism I don’t think he’s understanding the verse. That verse, which is the same combination of ek and tēreō means we are kept out of that time period entirely. So, what is the meaning of “keep you from,” that’s the debate, when you track down the same preposition with the same or similar verb what you’ll see over and over in God’s Word is it’s a promise not to be sustained through something but to be kept out of it entirely.
Well, what exactly are we going to be kept out of? This takes us to number four. What is the meaning of “the hour.” Revelation 3:10, Jesus says, “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, [that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.]” Now the Greek word for “hour” here is óra, and in John’s writing an hour does not refer to a literal 60 minutes. The way John uses the word typically is it’s referring to an age, an extended period of time. For example, we already saw earlier Jesus in John12:27 saying, “Father, keep Me from this hour,” He’s not talking about 60 minutes; what He’s talking about is the ordeal of experiencing the wrath of God during the crucifixion.
And you’ll notice that what Jesus says to the church at Philadelphia is you’re going to be kept out of, not just the hour or a hour but the hour. Do you see the definite article there in front hour? So John and Christ must be referring to something very well known in biblical history. “The hour” obviously refers to something that’s very concrete in the minds of the Bible believing Christian. And the only explanation we would have for “the hour” is the tribulation period itself because the tribulation period has been well defined, has it not, in the pages of the Old Testament. Daniel 12:1 says, “And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; [and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.”]
Jesus spoke openly about this time period in Matthew 24:15-22. Because He uses “hour,” an extended age and the definite article in front of the word “hour” He’s referring to something already well defined which is the tribulation period.
Now I want you to watch this very carefully because the argument that is being made today is that this hour the wrath of God doesn’t start until later. Midtribulationalists say the wrath of God doesn’t start until the second half; three-quarters rapturist say the wrath of God doesn’t start until the final 25%. We believe that the whole thing is the wrath of God and I’ll be showing you very carefully as we move through the Book of Revelation why that is so.
So, a lot of people are out there saying you’d better hunker down, you’d better get some ammo (and by the way, having a gun is not a bad thing to have). I believe in preparing like that in my home because we live in a fallen world. I just don’t do it because of my eschatological position. I don’t do it because I think I’m going to eyeball it with the antichrist one day. And so much of the body of Christ is living on the edge because they’re in improper doctrine and they think they’re going to see the antichrist face to face so I’ve got to get the copper bullets and all of these things that they sell on the internet.
And by the way, there are people out there, I’ll give you one name, Alex Jones in his… I don’t want to call it a ministry, it’s his platform, called Infowars.com I think it is, it’s all about one world conspiracies, and a lot of it, I listen to him and I think well he’s right in a lot of this stuff because there is coming a one world government on planet earth, but if you listen to him long enough, which I don’t really recommend you do, [laughter] he’ll start bashing the pretribulational rapture, attacking it over and over again. And you have to ask yourself, why does he keep attacking the pretribulational rapture over and over again. Here’s the answer. He sells survival gear! [Laughter] So pretribulationalism would damage his sales; see that? It’s about as simple as that.
But what is being spoken of here by Jesus. Let’s pretend that the wrath of God doesn’t start until the final 25% or the final 50%. Did you catch the statement that Jesus made here? He doesn’t promise us we’re going to be kept from the wrath; He promises us that we’re going to be kept out of the time when that wrath is poured out. The promise is you’re going to be here for most of it but not the wrath; the promise is you’re exempted, and that’s why I entitled this sermon “Kept from the Hour, from the whole hour of this time period.
Charles Ryrie puts it this way: However, the promise of Revelation 3:10 not only guarantees being kept from the trials of the Tribulation period but being kept from the time period of the Tribulation. The promise is not, I will keep you from the trials. It is I will keep you from the hour of the trials… But how clear and plain is the promise. ‘I…will keep you from the hour of testing.’ Not just from any persecution, but from the coming time that will affect the whole earth. (The only way to escape worldwide trouble is not to be on the earth.)” Charles Ryrie says the only way to escape worldwide trouble is not to be on the earth. “And not just from the events, but from the time. And the only way to escape the time when the events take place is not to be in a place where time ticks on.” That’s why we can’t be on the earth during this time because there’s time on the earth. We have clocks and watches, we have to be transferred into a place that’s timeless, i.e. heaven.” He says, “The only place that meets those qualifications is heaven. [Charles C. Ryrie, What You Should Know About the Rapture, Current Christian Issues (Chicago: Moody, 1981), 116-17.]
And you say well, wait a minute pastor, I’ve been listening to your teachings on Israel and the kingdom and you keep talking about how the nation of Israel is going to go through this time period. In fact, here’s Jeremiah 30:7, now this is what’s called the Septuagint which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, and it uses the same words, relatively the same words that we find in Revelation 3:10, “Jeremiah 30:7 (LXX) “Alas! for that day is great, There is none like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s distress “ (Gen. 32:8; 35:10), by the way, who is Jacob in the Bible? Israel. “But he will be saved [sōzō] from [apo] it.” Now here it’s not ek but it’s apo, a very similar preposition; sōzō and apo, sounds like computer company, doesn’t it?
And people say well, you’re telling us that the church is going to be removed from this time period but now you’re telling me that nearly the same construction that’s used in Jeremiah 30:7 that Israel is going into this time period. And the answer to that is you have to understand the distinction between Israel and the church. If you do not keep Israel and the church separate, as separate programs of God you’re going to be confused about this until your dying day. Israel’s program is to go into this time period in unbelief so that a remnant can be brought to faith. In fact Zechariah 13:8-9 is very clear that it’s a third of the nation that will be part of that remnant.
[Zechariah 13:8-9, ““It will come about in all the land,” declares the LORD, ‘hat two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it.  And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”]
So, they’re going from unbelief to belief through the mechanism of the tribulation period. But let me ask you something: can you be a Christian and not be in faith? Impossible! It’s possible to go to church and not be saved but what I’m talking about here is being a believer in Christ, you’ve already been identified to the body of Christ, you cannot even be in that position unless you’ve already believed. So, there is no agenda to take the church from unbelief to belief through the mechanism of the tribulation period. But there is that mechanism in place for the nation of Israel. Why is that? Because the day the church is in faith so you’re not a part of the church. Today within the nation of Israel, it’s an unbelieving nation. Keep Israel and the church separate because they are on different designed programs and to mix the two is to mix apples and oranges.
This takes us to a fifth question, what is the meaning of “the whole world,” this time of distress that’s coming upon “the whole world.” Notice again Revelation 3:10, “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole” adjective in Greek holos “world,” the noun for world is oikouménē.” Now there’s a big debate about that word oikouménē because sometimes when the word oikouménē is used in the New Testament it’s not speaking of the whole world; it’s speaking of a smaller group within the world.
For example, it’s used that way in Luke 2:1 concerning the census that went out at the birth of Christ around that time period. It says in Luke 2:1 over “the inhabited earth.” [Luke 2:1, “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.”] It’s not talking about everybody on planet earth, it’s talking about a group within planet earth, a small subset, a smaller group.
However, that’s not the only use of oikouménē; oikouménē can be used to describe the whole globe. For example, this is what Satan offered Jesus on a silver platter. Luke 4:5, oikouménē was used. Satan, Revelation 12:9 is deceiving the whole world, oikouménē is used again. Acts 17:31 talks about the final judgment of the whole world, oikouménē.
[Luke 4:5, “And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.” Revelation 12:9, “And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” Acts 17:31, “because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”]
So, if oikouménē means the known world in some contexts but the entire world in other contexts, which definition should we insert here in Revelation 3:10? If you don’t learn anything else in this church learn these words: context is king. The three rules of real estate are location, location, location. The three rules of Bible study are context, context, context. Words typically have multiple meanings. Take the word “apple” as an example I could be talking about a piece of fruit, I could be talking about a computer, I could be talking about New York City, I could be talking about the pupil of one’s eye. Which definition do I insert when I’m reading something? The context will tell me.
And what is the context of Revelation 3:10? Revelation 3:10 is followed by Revelation 4, do you agree with me on that? And Revelation 5 and Revelation 6 and what happens in Revelation 6? The wrath of God is poured out, not on Rome, not on Las Vegas, not on Los Angeles, not on San Francisco, but the whole world. Oikouménē means here the whole world. And beyond that, did you catch the adjective in front of oikouménē? It’s holos, “the whole world.” So, what is meant by “the whole world?” Here’s the answer: the whole world is meant. And that’s why you come to Sugar Land Bible Church, to get these cutting-edge insights. It’s the seal judgments and the bowl judgments and the trumpet judgments, which as we will be studying them as we move through this series, cover the whole earth.
Sixth question, what does it mean when it talks about testing or to test? Notice again Revelation 3:10, “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing,” peirasimos, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world to test (same root now, now it’s a verb) peiraso, those who dwell on the whole earth. What does it mean “to test”? Now there are two definitions for test. Here are a couple; it means to demonstrate the quality of something rather than to purify its content. God is demonstrating who people are rather than purifying them. It also means a test for the purpose of exposing someone’s true character, typically with a negative intent to demonstrate a failure. That’s the definition of test. God is setting up the earth dwellers for failure to expose what’s happening in their hearts.
Now when this same verb was used earlier in the Book of Revelation that’s exactly what it meant when the church at Ephesus put to the test, same word, those who claimed to be apostles and found them to be liars. They were being tested to expose who they are. See that? And this is why this side of eternity God does not test us in that way. He brings trials into our lives to make us better, not to expose us as failures. James 1:13-14, we see the same verb. James 1:13, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.  But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.” This word “test” means to be exposed as a failure. This is what Satan does to us but it’s not what God does to the child of God. But let me tell you something, He is going to do that for the unbelievers in the tribulation period itself.
Renald Showers says, “Christ was declaring that the purpose of the future period of testing will be for God to test ‘them that dwell on the earth’ to demonstrate or expose the kind of people they are.” [Renald Showers, Maranatha Our Lord, Come! (Bellmawr, NJ: Friends of Israel, 1995), 215.] You see, when you understand this word “test” you start to understand why we can’t be here, because God doesn’t treat us this way. He doesn’t set us up for failure. He doesn’t set us up to expose the failing reality that we are and that’s what God is doing in the tribulation period for the earth dwellers.
And you say well, who are the earth-dwellers? I’m glad you asked, number 7, who are the earth-dwellers? The test is coming for those who dwell on the earth; there is the Greek expression “dwells upon the earth.” Every time you study earth dwellers in the Book of Revelation it always refers to unbelievers. The test is not coming for the Christian, the test is not coming for the church, the test is coming for the earth dwellers or the unbelievers.
Revelation 13:8 uses the same expression earth dwellers. And it also says of them that their name is not written in the Book of Life, they’re obviously unbelievers. [Revelation 13:8, “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.”] The same thing in Revelation 17:8. [Revelation 17:8, “”The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come.”]
Thomas Ice writes, “This phrase ‘earth dwellers’ is used eleven times in nine verses in Revelation. [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 you will see that all refer to a special class of stubborn sinners who are set in their 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 spoken of in Revelation 3:10 is set in contrast with the present set of believers in the church age, and the future ‘earth dwellers’ will be active during the time period in which believers are said to be kept from, it is clear that John speaks of the time or hour of the tribulation. This is why 3:10 is a clear promise that Christ will keep believers from the time of the seven-year tribulation.”
Why is that? Because the whole thing is designed to expose the true nature of unbelievers. It has nothing to do with your trials and your future as a member of God’s church. This is why we have to be kept from this whole hour entirely. If God were to insert us into this time period it would violate His purpose for which the hour comes. See that?
Now you say well, gee, Pastor, you’re teaching escapism. Let’s think about that for a minute. Is escapism the worst thing in the world? I mean, I’m in favor or escapism, I have no real problem with that. In fact, when I trusted in Christ, you know why I became a Christian when I heard the gospel? I didn’t want to go to hell. Isn’t that escapism? But people misinterpret what we’re saying and they’re saying that in this life it’s easy. No, it’s not! Because in this life we are candidates for trials, the wrath of man, the wrath of Satan, the wrath of the world system. We are candidates for trials, lower case key, but let me tell you something, according to Revelation 3:10 you are exempt from Trial, capital T. You are a candidate for tribulations, lower case key, but you are exempt from THE tribulation, capital T. Why? Because that’s God’s divine program for the church.
In fact, as bad as your life might be right now this is the worst it could possibly get for you; that’s why Revelation 3:10, which we talked about earlier, the first part of the verse, says, “Because you have kept the word of my perseverance I will keep you from the hour of testing.” Why does it insert those together? We talked about how some abuse these verses but a possible explanation is Christ is saying you’ve already gone through your trials. You’ve already gone through your tribulations. You’ve already gone through your tests. So because it has already been run on the church there’s no need to insert the church into this time period.
Renald Showers again puts it this way: “Christ based His promise on the fact that the church saints had already passed their test. In light of that, it appears that because they had already passed their test, Christ promised that He would not put them into the period that…will have the purpose of testing a very different group of people.” [Renald Showers, Maranatha Our Lord, Come! (Bellmawr, NJ: Friends of Israel, 1995), 212.] Remember that, the tribulation period is a test to expose as failures a very different group of people, not the child of God, which raises another question.
Number 8, what is the meaning of “about to come”? Revelation 3:10 talks about this hour of testing that’s coming upon the whole world and it says there it’s “about to come.” [Revelation 3:10, “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”] It’s the Greek verb mello, meaning about to. It’s the same verb used in 1 Peter 5:1 concerning the glory of God which we will share in which is about to be revealed. [1 Peter 5:1, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed.”] What is it revealing here? Imminency! This could happen at any moment. This time of testing that’s coming upon the whole world could happen in the next split second. That’s what he means by “about to come,” any moment. It’s like a dark storm cloud hovering over planet earth, ready to emit its rain over the planet at any moment.
That’s what Jesus is talking about here when He’s talking about this hour of testing that is about to come. Which raises another very interesting question, how will Christ keep His promise to the church? Number nine, how will Jesus Christ keep His promise to His church to be kept out of not just tribulation of these times but the hour of the tribulation period that is coming eminently upon the earth? How in the world is Christ going to make good on His promise? What are the means or the mechanism that Jesus will use to fulfill His promise of keeping us free from an hour of trial that’s about to eminently explode on planet earth? How’s He going to do that. And I’m glad you asked, because the answer is what? The rapture, because verse 10 is followed by verse 11. And He starts to explain the concept of the rapture in verse 11, “I am coming” what? “quickly; hold fast to what you have so no one will take your crown.” That’s how He’s going to do it. He’s going to come for us prior to, snatch us out of the earth, rapture, verse 11, thereby fulfilling His promise, verse 10. Now people look at verse 11 and they say well how do you know that’s talking about the future? Because it talks about judgment, the judgment of what? Rewards, so that no one will take your what? Crown, which is a judgment that happens in heaven immediately following the rapture.
This judgment of rewards is always connected to the imminent return of Christ. You see that in 1 Corinthians 4:5, judgment will come when the Lord comes. He will bring to light the things hidden in darkness. 2 Timothy 4:8 talks about a crown of righteousness that Paul will receive on that day; which day? The day of His appearing, which is the rapture. You know, it’s very interesting to me that about this time of year people start putting up Christmas stuff in the department stores. Did you know they’re already doing that? And as the months progress you see more and more Christmas things being put up, Santa Claus, Christmas tree lights, Christmas displays, and you say you know what. Christmas is coming. But since we’re seeing these signs in September you say well wait a minute, Halloween is coming even faster, because that occurs in October, and after Halloween we’ll say Thanksgiving is coming even faster because that occurs in November, and Christmas occurs in December. You see that?
When you see the world being pushed in the direction that it’s being pushed in, like the desire of the Jews to rebuild their temple. Through the discovery of a couple of weeks ago the red heifer, a genetically pure animal whose ashes must be used to purify the temple. Jim McGowan and myself did a whole Pastor’s Point of View on this on Friday. They’re not sure but they think they’ve got the genetically pure red heifer, which is a sign for the tribulation temple. See that.
And by the way, you think that Donald Trump’s movement of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is just some kind of random occurrence? How do you build your temple in a city that is being legally disputed by the international community? The nation of Israel has had Jerusalem since 1967, but nobody will recognize it. Trump says, whether Trump understands this or not I don’t know, but God looks down at Trump and says we’ll use Him to fix this problem, we’ll move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; now Jerusalem is legally recognized and therefore it’s much easier to build your what in a legally recognized city? A temple!
And by the way, the Trump embassy move happened exactly fifty years after the nation of Israel regained Jerusalem in the Six Day War. Now doesn’t your Bible say something about fifty years? Isn’t there something in Leviticus 25 about the year of jubilee, the release of debts. You think these things are accidents? You think the recent genetic discovery of the red heifer, which happens to coincide with all these things, is just happening sporadically? It’s sort of like… I took statistics in college, I wasn’t very good at it, we called it sadistics, [laughter] but no one has ever accused me of being a mathematical genius, I’ll tell you that much, but it’s sort of like how many times in your life can you be struck by lightning? Eventually you start seeing these things happen and you have to start seeing the hand of God in it. And if this world is being set up for the tribulation period and Christ made a promise to use in verse 10, then the rapture must be coming even faster.
Question number ten, we’ll do these fast. Is this a promise only for Philadelphia, because they say well, it just applies to Philadelphia? When you study the Thessalonian letters, I have the verses there on the screen, the letter to Romans, you’ll see that the same promise is made to other churches. The exemption from divine wrath is made to the church as a whole. In fact, look down at verse 13, He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the church of Philadelphia. [Revelation 3:13, “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this.” Revelation 3:7 says, “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this.”]
It doesn’t say that, the churches. This is a church wide promise. Which takes us to question number 11 and with this we’re finished. Does this view, preacher… does this view, pastor, if you’re correct in all of this does it harmonize with the rest of the Book of Revelation or is this just some theology you’ve built from one verse. Well, as you know by now, by studying with us through the Book of Revelation, the Book of Revelation has three parts to it: write down the things that you have seen, chapter 1; write down the things that are, the seven letters to the seven churches; and write down the things that will take place after these things, section 1 chapter 1, section 2 chapters 2 and 3, section 3, chapters 4-22. How many times does the word “church” appear in sections 1 and 2? Answer: 19 times.
Is it not strange that once you get to the futuristic section of the book the word “church” doesn’t appear on the earth a single time? Coincidence? NO, I don’t think it’s coincidental at all. I think what we’re doing is we’re building a theology that is consistent with the totality of God’s revelation, because if I was interpreting verse 10 in a way that contradicted the rest of the Book of Revelation I think I’d be in trouble. But you see, the interpretation that I’m giving is completely consistent with the Book of Revelation. In fact, it says in those first three sections, “To him who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Now when you go home today read Revelation 13:9 clause you’ll find the same expression without the clause “what the Spirit says to the churches. [Revelation 13:9, “If anyone has an ear, let him hear.”] Why would that clause be used seven times in Revelation 2 and 3 but completely disappear in Revelation 13:9?
And you know what, I don’t know about you but when you start studying the Book of Revelation the things looks pretty Jewish to me: 144,000 Jews evangelizing the world; Revelation 11:2, two Jewish witnesses that look a lot like Moses and Elijah. Why does God have His hand back on Israel and not the church that He has used for the last 2,000 years. The answer is very simple, we’re in the balcony seats; we are those seven golden lampstands that are the church, Revelation 1:20, in heaven when these things happen, Revelation 4:5. [Revelation 11:2, “Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months.” Revelation 1:20, “As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” Revelation 4:5, “Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God;”]
By the way, is anybody here harassed by Satan in your daily life? That’s why you’ve got to put on the full armor of God, Ephesians 6. Why is it that in Revelation 12 Satan is not bothering the church any more but he is pursuing the woman clothed with the sun and the moon and the twelve stars, which is a reference, Joseph’s dream, Genesis 37:9-10, to Israel? Did Satan finally give up on bothering the church? [Genesis 37:9-10, “Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, “Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”  He related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?”]
He’s not bothering the church anymore because the church is in heaven, because we’re to be at a place where time doesn’t tick because we are exempted from the hour of trial that’s coming upon the whole earth. Why am I a pretribulationalist? Because if God was going to say we’re protected through this time period there are easier ways for Him to say it. And by the way, if He’s going to protect us through it He does a lousy job of it. And by the way, that’s the meaning of “keep you from” and we’re kept from what? The hour! The hour of what? The hour of trial that’s coming upon the whole earth to test who? The earth dwellers who are always unbelievers. And it’s going to happen, this time period, eminently which means the rapture is even more eminent. And this is not a promise just to Philadelphia, it’s a promise to the church universal and it fits beautifully with the Book of Revelation.
So, when will the believing be leaving? I should have made that my title. [Laughter] We’ll do that one maybe next week. When will the believing be leaving? Before this time period comes. The only real question is when the trumpet sounds are you going. And you say well I’m not living holy enough or righteous enough to participate. Welcome to the club, none of us are.
This is something that God offers via grace, unmerited favor. It’s part of the grace package that He offers for those who come under the conviction of His Spirit and trust in the promise of the gospel. The gospel is good news because Jesus did everything in our place, He died that horrific death, bore the wrath of a holy God in our place, rose from the dead claiming who He claimed to be and what He says is just trust Me! Stop trusting yourself, stop trusting your denomination, stop trusting your good works, stop trusting your New Year’s resolutions, stop trusting ins what your parents did or your grandparents did, trust in Me! And the grace package, including participation in the rapture is available for you. If you want to get saved you can do it right now; it’s not a matter of walking an aisle, joining a church, giving money, it’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where the Spirit of God places you under conviction and you respond by way of faith, which means trust in Jesus Christ. If it’s something you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk.
Shall we pray. Father, we are grateful for this teaching You’ve given us from Your Word concerning what we have in You. I just pray, Father, that we will not fall into modern day confusion but we will embrace this promise for what it says and we will live it out this week. Maybe this week is the week You’re going to come for us; may our lives be lived accordingly. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen!