by Paul Benson
Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Revelation 3:10
The promise of Revelation 3:10 is perhaps the most frequently quoted verse given as support for the notion of a ‘rapture’ of the believers before the coming time of great tribulation prophesied by Jesus. The claim is that this promise of exemption means the Christian Church will not be here on earth to face the ‘mark of the beast’, nor the Antichrist and his horrible persecution of the followers of Christ. But is this verse really promising all they say it is?
The fact that Revelation 3:10 is cited as one of the strongest ‘proofs’ of the pre-trib rapture theory shows just how weak, and lacking of biblical substantiation, that teaching really is. Lacking passages of Scripture which expressly state the elements of their theory they resort to inserting their doctrine into texts such as this one in Revelation. Please read the verse and ask yourself: “Does this verse really say what they are claiming it does? Is it even about the great tribulation in the first place?
Where is the Wrath in Revelation 3:10?
First off, is there anything in this verse that says ‘wrath’? Does it say, “the hour of wrath”? Does it say, “to bring wrath upon all the world”? I sure don’t see it, do you? It says to ‘try them’ not to ‘destroy them’. Where did anyone get that this promise was about escaping wrath? Quite a stretch folks! I mean really. When the Scriptures talk of the ‘wrath’ of Almighty God, the Lord isn’t using statements like, “I think I’ll try them for a season.” or “I think I’ll give them an hour of temptation.”
Terms like temptation, trying, or testing suggest a hope for success or victory, or maybe even a redemptive work in progress; but God’s wrath carries no such hope, The wrath of God is him venting his fury upon his enemies, as in the days of Lot and Noah (Luke 17:26-29). Its purpose is destruction; a plowing under of the field, so to speak (not the call to repentance we clearly see given time and time again during the time of great tribulation). Does this verse convey that imagery of an outpouring of God’s wrath? No, it absolutely does not.
The verse is obviously a promise about a time of testing; but strangely, rapture theory folks think they can claim this as a solid promise God is going to rapture them off this planet before the time of great tribulation begins. The real question is not whether the words ‘keep thee from’ in this verse mean ‘out of” the tribulation or ‘thru it’, as many have argued over the years; but is this verse even talking about end-time events in the first place?
Is there anything in this verse, or the context in which it is found, that plainly states a promise of leaving this planet, or even mentions the great tribulation itself? If you had never heard of the rapture theory would you read this verse and say:”Hey cool, God is going to catch away the Church before Antichrist and the mark of the beast gets here!” Would you honestly receive that meaning from this verse if no one had first taught you to think that way? I highly doubt it.
Also, did God remove the Philadelphia believers (the promise was written to them after all) from this planet to fulfill his promise to ‘keep’ them? Obviously not. And we have no reasonable expectation he would have to remove us to keep this promise to us also. God is all powerful; let’s not limit the Holy One with our unbelief. In concern for the hardships his disciples would face Jesus prayed: “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest *keep them from the evil (John 17:15). Jesus seemed to be of the opinion God does not need to take us out of this world to ‘keep’ us! I’m sure God was faithful to this promise he made to those Philadelphia believers right in their situation, as he will be for us also. God will keep us. (*The Greek word for ‘keep’ in the above verse is the same one used in Rev. 3:10.)
Who was Revelation 3:10 written to?
One thing that helped me see through the presumptions promoted concerning this verse was asking myself: “Who was this promise written to, and just what did it promise them?” Let’s look at that, shall we? This verse is found in the words Jesus told John to put in a letter and send to the Church in Philadelphia. This was an actual fellowship residing in an actual city by that name. I am pretty sure John obeyed the Lord, and sent them an actual letter.
Do you expect me to believe they received those words as a promise from Jesus they would not have to go thru the cataclysmic end-time events 19 centuries in the future if they would keep his Word and not deny his name? It would be ridiculous to think so. Did the ones in that fellowship who were not faithful receive the reciprocal of this promise? Were they transported into the future to endure the end-time troubles? Neither the faithful or unfaithful in this Philadelphia church would ever have to worry about whether or not they would go through the final years of this age. That cannot be the promise (or warning) this verse was intended to bring forth to them (and therefor NOT to us).
If the faithful of that group were promised to be ‘kept’ from something that the less faithful among them would have to endure it had to be something common not just to the time in which they lived, but also to ours (if this promise also applies to us). We have no right to think this promise spoke one thing to those people but something entirely different to us; but that what the rapture teachers would have you believe! The truths of God’s Word do not change from one generation to another. That type of treatment of God’s Word creates an atmosphere where error can flourish unchecked,
A Closer Look
A useful key of understanding can be found in looking at what the purpose of what they were being ‘kept’ from was. It says, “ to try them that dwell upon the earth.” A verse that comes to my mind is one, also in John’s letters to the churches, where Jesus tells lukewarm believers to “buy gold tried in the fire” (Rev. 3:18). Peter also uses this concept of ‘gold tried in the fire’ in regard to the trial of our faith (1 Peter 1:7). Think about this: would a goldsmith or jeweler take some pure 24k gold and throw in in the smelting pot to refine it? What would be the sense in that; it is already pure. There is no need to try it. In a similar manner, not all believers need the fires of purification, but sadly many do.
I don’t think it is unreasonable to conclude the promise of Rev. 3:10 has to do with faithfulness in the life of a believer causing God to keep them from a process of refining they don’t need to experience. Read the verse again; it says an ‘hour of temptation’ to ‘try them’. You ‘try’ gold to purify it! This verse is not talking about God’s wrath, but a work of purification. God does chasten his children, but not unnecessarily. And I think this verse speaks the same wisdom to our generation as it did to theirs. Keep thyself pure (or you might get a trip to the woodshed).
In Daniels end-time visions we see some of Christ’s followers being tried and made white (Dan. 11:35); but we also see others who were strong in the Lord doing great exploits for his glory (Dan. 11:32-33). Not everyone was being tried; not everyone needed it. There we see God’s wonderful promise of Rev. 3:10 (and its reciprocal) being faithfully fulfilled during the great tribulation! The ones who were faithful being kept from the testing, and the ones in need of purification being ‘made white’. Sounds like God is being faithful to all here.
There are times God keeps us from trials and tribulations; there are times he allows them to try us (or maybe even chastise us); and then there are times he allows suffering for his glory such as persecution or even martyrdom. We need to have a heart to trust him in whatever tribulations God allows to come our way.
Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. 1 Peter 4:19
When you look at the condition of the body of Christ in this nation do you see a Church that even qualifies for the rapture they claim this verse promises? Has this generation of believers been faithful and kept the word of his patience? I don’t think so! The Lord is coming back for a Bride without spot, wrinkle, or blemish. Sin is a blemish on the believer’s garment. … hating even the garment spotted by the flesh (Jude1:23). Personally, I think the Bride could use a trip to the Laundromat! “…his wife has made herself ready.” Revelation 19:8
The elements of the rapture theory are implicit; meaning some think they seem to be implied by certain texts. Implicit teachings fill the doctrinal structures of the Catholic, Jehovah Witness, Mormon, Christian Science, and other organizations with falsehoods like soul sleep, annihilation, purgatory, a non-divine Christ, infant baptism, and so on. If you want to believe something badly enough you can find plenty of Scriptures that seem to imply it. The true doctrines of our faith are explicit; meaning they are expressly declared in the Word of God with the confirming safeguard of multiple witnesses. The rapture theory can make no such claim.
Here’s another thought: How many who think they can *claim Rev. 3:10 as a promise would care to also claim another ‘promise’ in John’s letters. If Rev. 3:10 is for you why not 2:10 also:
Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. Revelation 2:10
Does not this verse also carry a promise to the Church? Why is one a promise to you, and not the other? Because one tickles your ears, and the other does not?
*(The dispensational / rapture theory teachers who claim Rev. 3:10 is a promise of exemption to the end-time Church also teach John’s letters to the churches represent seven different Church ages down through history (I disagree with this notion), and we are the last one: the Laodicean Church. And they say Rev. 2:10 was only for those of the ‘Smyrna Age’. Why would a promise made to those of the Smyrna Age not apply to the Laodicean Church, but one from the Philadelphia Age (Rev. 3:10) can be claimed? How much sense does that make? I guess rapture sense and common sense are two different things!)
There is not a thing about Revelation 3:10, its wording, its context, or even common sense that shows it to be relevant to the supposed promise of a pre-trib rapture, or that it is specific to end-time events in the first place! This unwarranted claim almost rivals the foolish one that says John being told “come up hither” (Rev. 4:1) means the church will leave before the time of great tribulation. That idea is so baseless and lame I’m almost embarrassed for the person when I hear them say it. These wild unsupported claims of ‘proof texts’ are nothing more than a grasping at straws, and are the clear hallmarks of unbiblical doctrine.
The teaching of a rapture before the coming great tribulation is nothing more than a fabricated fable; a story concocted to entertain and distract. I wonder if maybe the original draft was signed by a fella named Aesop?