By Rev. Roger Best
“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 upon the earth.” (Revelation 3:10)
This is a crucial verse for dispensationalists, and they repeat it often to prove their pretribulation rapture position. The majority of pretribulationalists will place their hope of an “any moment rapture” on this verse when, in fact, one of the leading proponents of the pretrib position, Dr. John Walvoord (former president of Dallas Theological Seminary) states in his book “The Rapture Question” on pages 70-71 that “it may be debatable to what extent this (verse, Rev. 3:10) constitutes absolute proof for pretribulationism.” Obviously there is some confusion! In this brief study let us take a look at this verse of Scripture and examine it to see what it really is teaching.
Examine the Context
First, let us look at the context of this important passage. It is found within the sixth letter (of seven written to the churches) and is addressed to the church at Philadelphia. By examining the content of these letters, one can easily see that they fall into three major categories. First there is the dead church, Sardis, whose only word from the Lord is to “Wake up.” Because of the influence of unbiblical doctrine five of the seven-Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, and Laodicea-are compromising churches; the major exhortation to these churches is to “Repent.” When you realize that in the scheme of end-time events these seven church represent conditions as they will be at the time of the coming of Christ, one can readily see where the church is today. Finally there is a faithful church, Philadelphia, to which no negative warning is given, only praise and the promise of a reward. Notice it is because these dear believers “have kept the word of My perseverance.” As a result, Christ will “keep them from the hour of testing.”
Examine the Greek
The word “perseverance” in the Greek is HPOMONES which has the basic meaning of hiding under, of patient enduring and fortitude, or remaining behind. In the context of this passage you will notice that the “perseverance” is closely related to the “hour of testing,” which is the translation of the Greek word, PEIRASMOS which means to examine or prove. Peirasmos is frequently translated, “to tempt” and that is important because the Bible teaches that it is Satan who tempts. “For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter (Satan) might have tempted you, and our labor should be in vain” (1 Thessalonians 3:5, emphasis added). James 1:2 and 12 tell us “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials (peirasmois). Blessed is the man that perseveres (hpomenei) under trial (peirasmon).” James is quick to add in the next verse (1:13) that God “does not tempt anyone.” From the endnote on page 469 of The Sign, Mr. Van Kampen adds this thought, “It is interesting to note how the ‘hour of testing’ that is referred to in Revelation 3:10 is also referred to by Peter, using the identical Greek word: ‘The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. . . Beloved, do not be suprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing (peirasmos), as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you my rejoice with exultation‘ (1 Peter 4:7, 12, 13, emphasis added). And then again the second epistle of Peter states, ‘then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation (peirasmos), and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment.’ (2 Peter 2:9). In both cases the believer is present during the peirasmos, the great tribulation of Antichrist, rather than being protected away from it.”
But now let us take a close look at the important words that the pretribulationist hang their hat on; “keep you from.” In the English translations it would appear that we, the believers, are kept from entering the “hour of testing.” But is that what it is really saying? There seems to be a volume of Scripture such as Matthew 24 and 2 Thessalonians 2 that would clearly indicate that believers are going to experience the testing during the Great Tribulation of Antichrist. In the Greek “will keep you from” is TEREO EK. TEREO means to “watch over protectively, guard” and with the preposition EK it carries the idea of being guarded or protected and rescued out from the midst of danger. If the idea of keeping one from entering were intended the preposition APO would have been used. So it is the idea of deliverance out from within rather than an external deliverance.
Let’s take a look at what some others have to say:
Goodspeed translates 3:10- “Because you have kept in mind the message of what I endured. I will also keep you safe in the time of testing that is going to come upon the whole world, to test the inhabitants of the earth.”
Moffatt- “Because you have kept the word of my patient endurance, I will keep you safe through the hour of trial which is coming upon the whole world to test the dwellers on earth.”
Fausett- “so as to deliver thee out of, not to exempt from temptation.”
Swete- “to the Philadelphia Church the promise was an assurance of safe keeping in any trial that might supervene.”
Zahn- “Testimony is borne once more to the Bishop of Philadelphia’s proved faithfulness up till now, and he is assured that Jesus will requite him for this, when He preserves him at the time of the great temptation that is to come and test the inhabitants of the earth, and will rescue him out of the danger that will exist even for Christians found in it.”
Beckwith- “The Philadelphians and those who show the same Christian steadfastness are promised that they shall be carried in safety through the great trial, they shall not fall.”
Trench- “The promise does not imply that the Philadelphia Church should be exempted from the persecutions which should come on all other portions of the Church; that by any special privilege they should be excused from fiery trials through which others should be called to pass. It is a better promise than this; and one which, of course, they share with all who are faithful as they are – to be kept in temptation, not to be exempted from temptation.”
Alexander Reese- “The use of EK in Revelation 3:10 distinctly implies that the Overseer would be in the hour of tribulation; the promise refers, either to the removal out of the midst of it, or preservation through it.”
Robert Gundry- “to keep or protect in a sphere of danger, and that because ek means emergence out from within, the combination of the two Greek words (TEREO EK) means to protect believers in a sphere of danger (the tribulation period), with a final emergence out from within this sphere.”
The Meaning Is Clear
The clear and obvious meaning concerns protection within the sphere of danger and not protection from danger. Christ has promised the faithful believers that He will deliver them at the revelation of His Glory at His Coming. To make this verse of Scripture mean “deliverance before the testing begins” is manipulating the Scripture to support a false position rather than accepting what the Scripture really says.
Is the rapture seen in Revelation 3:10? Absolutely! Right where Christ says it will occur when He cuts the persecution of Antichrist short and comes in Glory to deliver the saints out of Great Tribulation.