Christ in Redemption

Dictionaries usually define redemption or to redeem as: “buying or getting back by payment of fees, setting free, ransoming., rescuing, delivering from sin and/or its penalties, such as by a sacrifice being made for the sinner.  God’s unique intention for man originally included perfection and autonomy that cooperated with sovereignty. The problem that man’s freedom created was a rebellion against his freedom’s author. Adam gave himself over to the enemy of God.  There was a change in allegiance. Because of God’s love and mercy, the LORD has supplied a means of escape whereby humanity can re-enter into a right relationship with his creator.  The following passages are meant to give us an overview of the Lord Jesus Christ, as seen in the book of Revelation:

Revelation 1:5b reads, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.”   The price of our freedom was exacted through the blood of Jesus Christ.  We have been redeemed through his blood. Jack Hayford says this about redemption: it is deliverance by payment of a price. In the New Testament, redemption refers to salvation’s provision, which “buys back” what has been lost.” In the Old Testament, the word redemption refers to redemption by a kinsman (Leviticus 25:24, 51-52; Ruth 4:6; Jeremiah 32:7-8), rescue or deliverance (Num. 3:49), and ransom (Psalms 111:9; 130:7). In the New Testament, it refers to loosing (Luke 2:38; Hebrews 9:12; Luke 21:28; Rom. 3:24; Ephesians 1:14).

In the Old Testament, redemption was applied to the recovery of property, animals, persons, and the whole nation. These things typify the dimensions of recovery and release New Testament believer’s experience in life through the price Jesus paid. So, the Old Testament evidence New Testament promise—God’s ability in Christ to redeem from the slavery of sin (Psalms 130:7-8), from enemy oppressors (Deuteronomy 15:15), and the power of death (Job 19:25-26; Psalms 49:8-9).

The New Testament describes the exact cost of redemption: “the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:19; Ephesians 1:7), which believers are exhorted to remember as they pursue obedient service, faithful ministry, and personal holiness (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Peter 1:13-19).

Revelation 5:6, “Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if he had been put to death:” Christ is a permanent sacrifice, a lamb put to death, yet now alive, possessing the characters of sacrifice, while still being triumphant over death.  Jesus, as Lamb, was not slain simply at a specific point in time.  The efficacy of his death will always be present with all its power to redeem, protect, sanctify, etc.  The sacrifice of Christ has positioned Him to wield absolute power and omniscience, as is signified in the second part of Revelation 5:6.  The anguish and humiliation of the cross have been changed into a place of conquest and respect. The humbleness runs contrary to the view of crucifixion at the time of Christ.

Revelation 5:9b, “You are worthy because you were put to death. With your blood you bought people for God,” implies the concept of a high cost that is associated with the death of Christ.  This passage indicates a parallel certainty that runs between the contributions of the blood of the sacrificial lamb. It also runs between the self-sacrifice of Christ.  Christ accomplished this sacrifice alone without aid or assistance.  The result of this sacrifice is that it has redeemed men, purchasing them for Cod, in all probability from sin and the antagonistic authority of the enemy.

Revelation 7:14: “I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’”  This verse addresses the sacrifice of Christ Himself and the high merit of His submitted life for men that hold purifying influence.  Because of the efficiency of Christ’s death, we can stand before the throne of God appropriately fully clad.

Revelation 12:11a: “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.” This passage implies that the devil suffers defeat due to the sacrifice of Christ.  It is the Sacrifice of the Cross, combined with the Blood of the Lamb that was shed, which stands as the main reason for all martyr’s victory.

Revelation 13:8b: “all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” Once the cross was sent into the stream of human history, it connected with all history in the mind of God.  This makes allowance for the strategic end of history to be made manifest. Due to the cross and its work within God’s ultimate purpose, history can be completed.  God envisaged a plan to create a compact with humanity if he rebelled against God.  The potential of the Lamb slain had to have existed as a corollary to considering man as a free moral agent. F.W. Dillistone, in The Christian Understanding of Atonement, stated, “Therefore the dramatic sequence of freedom, sacrifice, and restoration must have been present in God’s mind from the foundation of the world.”

Revelation 20:4-6: “I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.” 


Concerning the millennium, Jonathan Edwards once said, “The main season of the success of all that Christ did and suffered in the work of our redemption and the chief time of the bestowment of Christ’s absolute blessing will be during the millennium. The greatest number of people will receive the benefits of Christ’s redemption than have in the history of the world. Holiness will be prevalent, and wickedness will be rare.” According to Edwards, the number of true converts that will be brought to the benefits of Christ’s redemption during this period will be “more than in all other times put together.”  Without getting into too much trouble, it is safe to assume that the nature and outworking of these events will remain a mystery until that period has arrived. 

Revelation 21:3: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”  This is one of the most promising and beautiful passages in the Bible.  This is an ultimate statement concerning God’s love and goals, and it illustrates His absolute passion for his people. 

We are told that the Church is not mentioned in Revelation chapters 4-18, which is asserted as proof that the Church is gone during this time. The problem this creates is immense. We must ask why, simply because the Church is not mentioned, how does this prove that it is in heaven?  Since the church is clearly on earth in chapters two and three, and since it is not expressly referred to as being in the heavens during the following chapters, the more natural inference would be that it is still on the earth during the events of these chapters. One thing is sure, however: if the church is not mentioned in these chapters, that is not sufficient proof that it is in heaven during this time.

As we have seen, traditional Peretribulational teachings state that the church is not mentioned in any of the chapters following Revelation 3:22 through Revelation 18.  Technically, however, the church, in general, is not mentioned anywhere in any of the chapters following Revelation 3:22 until the final salutation at the end of the Book.  Most of the references to what we know to be the universal church are made to local assemblies or churches in Asia.  Each of these units is seen as part of the larger universal church.  

It is also important to note that the words church in the singular and churches in the plural occur 19 times in Revelation 1-3.  Four references in Revelation 1 concern “the seven churches in Asia.” The word church is used in each of the statements made to the seven churches, like “To the angel of the church in Ephesus.” It is also used after each letter: “Hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”  In Revelation 2:22, the phrase “to all the churches” is an inclusive statement that incorporates all seven previously mentioned churches.  The word church is never used in any of these chapters as referring to the Church in its totality. Even though this seems to be trivial, this is significant from a theological point of view.

Even though it is true, the word church does not appear after Revelation 3 until the closing of Revelation; it should be fairly evident that the Church is referenced through other terms that create similar contrasting statements in the book.  Revelation 13:7 is an excellent example of this point.  It reads: “He (antichrist) was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation.”  

 This may seem to be a little ridiculous, but isn’t this a clear indication of the Church?  Revelation 13:10 mentions the “patient endurance and faithfulness of the saints.”  This patience and faithfulness are recorded as existing in the middle of persecution.  In another reference, the saints are mentioned in Revelation 16:6: “for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.”  Again, the reference is to an existence that incorporates persecution as a way of life.

 In Revelation 17, we read about the Babylonian woman who was “drunk with the blood of the saints (18:24).” The referrals, as mentioned earlier, speak about the saints, which addresses the body of believers using a parallel euphemism as it identifies those who make up the church’s composition.

However, those who believe that the pre-tribulation rapture is illustrated in Revelation 4:1 commonly teach that the saints in these chapters are not church saints. Instead, they are Tribulational saints.  These would be understood to be people who have no part in the Church in any manner.  The problem with this distinction is seen when we see these advocates of a pretribulational view re-introducing the word saints in connection with the marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19.  The problem could be stated as one of contextual integrity, as the reemergence of the word saints takes on normative word usage while advancing the notion that it has a different meaning in the previous uses of the word between the fourth and eighteenth chapters of the book.   It is here that they are told that this refers to the church saints.  

Here is how the passage reads: “Let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready (19:7, KJV).”  Scofield’s KJV footnote states, “The Lamb’s wife here is the Bride, the Church.”  Here Scofield agrees that the saints here are church saints.  Remember that Scofield’s notes were one of the main ways the pre-tribulation rapture teaching proliferated worldwide. How is it possible to argue that the saints mentioned in the previous chapter (Revelation 18), the chapter before that (Revelation 17), and the chapter before that (Revelation 16) and Revelation 13 are different types of saints? Is that alien to this designation? The proper exercise of sound hermeneutics precludes such arbitrary methods of interpretation, as the use of such loose principles would make allowance for anything to be proved from the Bible doctrinally.  This practice lends itself to unsound practices and conclusions.


Let us Assume that the churches of Revelation 2 and 3, in all actuality, represent seven distinct church ages and that this is the only way we are to view the message to the seven churches.  If we are to make this postulation that is generally accepted by some Bible scholars and then couple it with the idea that the word church does not appear in several of the chapters that follow, Revelation 4:1 is then taken as a reference to the rapture.  This, of course, assumes that John is a metaphorical type of the Church.  Please reread the verse: “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”  Although this verse clearly is a message to John specifically, many Pretribulational writers feel this verse specifically refers to the rapture.

Scofield says: “This call seems clear to indicate the fulfillment of 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17, or the rapture (13-18), But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus, we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

The word church does not again occur in Revelation till all is fulfilled. DeHann says: “This brief passage from Revelation is one of the shortest, yet one of the most explicit pictures in Scripture of the Rapture of the Church,” in 35 Simple Studies on the Major Themes in Revelation, p. 61.  Nevertheless, this verse does not address the rapture. It is not even talking about the Church. It tells us about John and his compelling experience that led to the Revelation.  Specifically, it is John the Revelator who was in the spirit, and it was this same John who was taken away into the heavenly realm.  

This is the same John who saw mind-boggling things which would come to pass somewhere in the distant future.  John’s being caught up in the heavenly places does not imply that we should look for the church in heaven any more than his being taken in the spirit into the wilderness to “Babylon” proves that the church was there in the wilderness of Babylon: 

Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones, and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH (Revelation 17:3-5).

Exegetes who say they unmistakably see a Pretribulational Rapture of the church in Revelation 2 (and 4) must make significant leaps and abandon sound principles of exegesis (among other things) to arrive at a positive conclusion that John is meant to serve as a type of the Church in this verse. The reason this is a stretch relates to the fact that John cannot be a reliable kind of the church in heaven during the period that addresses the epoch of Revelation 4-18.  This is because John is represented as being back on earth during most of these chapters.  Revelation 10:1 and 18:1 tell us that John sees an angel “comes, not departs, down from heaven.”  

Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and his splendor illuminated the earth.

His use of wording places him below heaven in both scenes. Revelation 11:1 gives us another vision where John measures the ‘temple,’ which identifies an actual place.  It does not symbolize something in heaven as it is pictured with a court, which is subsequently given over to the Gentiles to tread down for 3.5 years: I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar and count the worshipers there.  For this to occur as depicted, the scene places him below heaven, existing on earth in the vision.  In the vision that is contained in Revelation 13:1, John is standing on the sand of the seas as a beast rises out of the water: And the dragon (some manuscripts add) and I stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.  In some places, John is seen as being in heaven; sometimes, he is seen on earth. If we are to be consistent hermeneutically, John cannot be a constant representative of the church in heaven during these chapters that specifically address the Great Tribulation.


Suppose we assume that the Pretribulational teachings are accurate and that the word church does not appear after Revelation 3. Assuming that John is the correct representation of the Church in heaven, being taken up to heaven in Revelation 4:1, a final argument needs to be made.  This will help establish the attempt to extract a Pretribulational Rapture truth from the verse under consideration. Pretribulational doctrine tells us that when the voice that spoke to John said: “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this,” the church is in the process of being raptured into heaven at this juncture.

However, the same Greek words, meta tauta, which are translated after these things at the end of the passage, are the same words rendered “after this.” I looked at the beginning of the passage.  The verse starts and finishes with the same identical phrase in Greek.  This is not an accident.  It is a double ellipse, which means it is essential to note the substance it addresses.  It would be the height of inconsistency to attempt to make it mean “after the church departed” in one citation in the same verse while, conversely, not translating it identically at the end of the verse.  To make it mean “after the Church departed” in both instances would create a contradiction of terms and usages.

The proper rendition of the passage is simple: John received explicit messages that were to be given to the seven churches of Asia.  Immediately after this, he heard a voice from heaven, saying that he would be shown things taking place in the future.  In other words, he would witness proceedings that were yet to be.  It is problematic to attempt to make this passage mean anything other than this, for this same expression was a common euphemism that John regularly used throughout his writings.  Meta tauta has been translated into several different ways in our English Bibles.  The phrase appears in these verses in John’s writings: “later (John 13:7; Revelation 1:19; 4:1; 9:12);” “after this (John 3:22; 6:1; 7:1; Revelation 7:1; 18:1; 19:1);” “later” (John 5:14); “after that (Revelation 15:5; 20:3);” “sometime later (John 5:1); “after this (Revelation 4:1).” If we try and force a meaning on this expression in one instance that is completely different in meaning and intent in the other renderings in John’s writings, we are traversing very unsound practices.


Pretribulationalist teachers will point to another main text, which is found in the words of Jesus, spoken to the Church of Philadelphia. “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth (Revelation 3:10).”  This teaching takes the position that advocates since these believers are to be kept from the hour of temptation, this certainly means that they will be raptured entirely out of the world for the word to be fulfilled. Unfortunately, the text does not indicate that this is an accurate interpretation.


When you look at Revelation 3:10 contextually, you will see its primary application pertaining to the Church in Philadelphia, located in Asia Minor, in the First Century.  The question that needs to be asked is: was this church meant to be kept away from a worldwide time of temptation and tribulation?  The answer is a resounding affirmative, as a promise applies to the passage.  But we must ask a second question: how were they kept from tribulation? Was the position of being kept one of being raptured to heaven?  There is nothing in the entirety of the passage that even remotely infers this to be true.  By examining the actual historical facts, they were never kept from tribulation and trial during their precise historical positioning.  Instead, they were saved by the power and grace of God’s intervention on their behalf


Revelation 3:10 also needs to be examined as it applies to the teaching that the seven Asian churches represent seven specific historical church ages.  The passage falls short of proving there will be an escape type of rapture from the Great Tribulation for the duration of the last days of this epoch.  If this had been the case, Revelation 3:10 would have been the LAST of the seven churches sequentially by the position of logical order. However, the promise of being “kept from the hour of temptation,” as the KJV states, was spoken to the sixth church, not the seventh.  This problem is not mitigated by stating that numerous previous churches or church ages will overlap concurrently in the last days. 

The recurring problem is seen in the inconsistency that is rife within the position that advocates a Secret Rapture.  When we assume that Revelation 4:1 teaches the secret rapture, we are taught correctly that the seven churches represent seven succeeding ages of the Church throughout history. This position states that the last church age, or the seventh, will end with the rapture.  Most who hold to the Pretribualtionist view teach that when Revelation 3:10 unfolds, it is accompanied by the message to the sixth church, which is a contradiction.  When we say that the message to the sixth church speaks to an escape for the church of the faithful remnant at the end of the current age, as though the sixth church was the last, the order becomes confused.  This is specifically seen when we comment on Revelation 4:1 from a biblical perspective, the Church ages should be in the sequential order of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.   The problem surfaces when teachers change the order of the sequence as it applies to Revelation 3:10.  When this is attached to the pretribulational Rapture theory, the ages of the churches would have to be moved around like this: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 6, or, at a minimum, the last two ages are arbitrarily combined to achieve a harmonious position.  This is how Scofield resolves the difficulty in the note on page 1332 of the Scofield Reference Bible.

The Church should be able to benefit from the letters to the seven churches in any century. This basic view allows us to see Revelation 3:10 as establishing the truth that applies to the churches in every century where the same or similar conditions may exist.  


As has been pointed out before, it is a recognized method of biblical interpretation to consider other verses that might shed light on any given subject.  I will apply this hermetical rule here and compare verses that also contain the recorded statements of Jesus as they appear in the Greek text and another verse that was recorded by John, who was both a disciple and apostle.  I hope that we find both verses to identify a type of promise.  It is the Abrahamic type of guarantee. But in one of the passages, a significant item is addressed. This is germane to the topic at hand, as it plainly shows us that believers can be kept from temptation or evil in this world without being taken out of the world.  Let us examine these passages:

Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that will come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth (Revelation 3:10). 

I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me, and they have obeyed your word, My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:6, 15).”

In both passages, the people that are being referred to have been people of their word.  They have demonstrated faithfulness in keeping the Word of God.  As they have kept the word as their word of surety, God, in turn, will “keep them.”  We are told in one passage that they will be kept/are being kept from the hour of trial (temptation).  The other passage states that they are being saved or protected from the evil, or evil one, depending on the translation.  Logic dictates that because they are being kept from temptation in one verse and kept from evil or the evil one in the other passage, it does not materially change the meaning that is being implicated.  Both scripturally and culturally, evil, the evil one, and temptation are closely related words.  Jesus taught His disciples to pray: And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one (Matthew 6:13). If we capable of being kept from temptation, we should be capable of being kept from evil by Jesus.  The two concepts are synonymous.

Both passages under comparison use the expression “keep from” in the King James Version of the Bible as it translates into English.  The New International Version of the Bible creates a modest serration (roughness) in the translation, which can create confusion. It conversely translates the verb eteresas (etresas/ /teresas (“keep” and “protect”), oti eterasas” because you keep,” I will keep “kago se tereso.”[1] What is important to note is that in Greek, both verses use the same basic words and structural composition in their sentence structure.  Furthermore, without trying to confuse the issue too much, these are verbs, indicative, aorist, active.  This simply means they are actively being implemented with a point of origination in time, and they possess an ongoing aspect of implementation and activity based on action.  You could almost say they mean we are both to be and being kept with equal force.  

It is a state of surety and a process of activation (Friberg, Barbara & Timothy, Analytical Greek New Testament, and the Pocket Interlinear New Testament, Jay Green, Ed.)  Both times these phrases surface; believers are being “kept from” evil or temptation.  As you can see, one verse expressly clears up that this notion of escape would be accomplished without the believers being taken away from the world.  This is the exact opposite meaning of the Secret Rapture teaching.  It is also important to comment on the importance of the phrase’s joint cooperation clauses.  As we keep the word, He keeps us from the evil one.

The probability of this passage’s interpretation, meaning we somehow escape hardship, is highly unlikely, if not impossible. Instead, if we are in the world and still being “kept from” the evil of this dark age, it is equally feasible to be “kept from” the hour of trial or temptation. This can happen without us being removed from the world through an elaborate escape clause. 

Revelation 3:10 identifies essential considerations for us when we ponder what it means to be kept from the hour of temptation: I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.  Paul, the apostle, spoke about the process of being tempted as something common to all men.  However, Paul stipulates that a promise has been made available to the believer in Jesus. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1 Corinthians 10:12, 13).

This is yet another biblical reference that addresses humanity’s prospects concerning the act of being tempted.  Paul goes on to say, however, that God the Father has promised us that through Christ, we really can be kept from falling into temptation.  There is a whole bevy of other verses that also speak about God’s ever-pervasive keeping power, yet out of all these passages, not one of them involves a rapture out of this age. 

 Remember what Jabez prayed: “Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request(1 Chronicle 4:10).”  We can also be protected or shielded (kept in KJV) “who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:5). To him, who can keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy (Jude 24, among others). 

As we study the keywords in these texts, and as we keep an open mind, we find that believers can be “kept from” the evil of this world, which has always been filled with points of sin, persecution, and temptation.  We can even be “delivered out of/away from temptation” as we find “the way of escape” that our God provides without ever being taken out of the world.

Some attempt to teach that the Church will be taken out of the world because of Revelation 3:10, mentioning a temptation that will “test those who live on the earth.” It has been taught that those who ‘live upon the earth’ are those who have chosen the earth as a lasting habitat. This opposes the Christians who have a religious intent as they go about their lives.  This hypothesis does not make sense biblically, however.  In the Greek, the word that is translated live/living here is the same Greek word that speaks of Jesus residing in Capernaum: Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali (Matthew 4:13).  I have yet to find a single expositor who would say that Jesus did not live in Capernaum but instead was taken away from the city as an expression of His devotion and the Father’s desire to protect Him from the persecution, trials, and hardship He had to face in the future.

In summation, in Revelation 3:10, we have seen how some have seen this passage as:

1. What we are talking about is explicitly about the historical Philadelphian Church that is mentioned in The Revelation in its setting.  The problem with this view is it would have had its fulfillment while those people were still alive.  This is a conclusion that no Bible Scholar has ever reached, regardless of their take on millenarian positions.  Even the extremist Preterist view does not appear to take this radical position.

2. It is difficult to practically relate to the seven church ages, or dispensations, in a historical sense as they have extended from the beginning of the church up to the present.  The dilemma we find here relates to the fact that even though you can make broad generalizations about the overlay of the churches and church history, they are not precise or accurate.  This application makes for good eisegesis, but it is not sound exegesis.  This is seen readily.  This theory falls short of reaching the last Church age, which should be the seventh. However, to make this hypothesis for the Philadelphian Church, a change in the order of appearance must be constructed, with the sixth and seventh churches changing places in the order of succession.

3. The passage’s relevance as a broad truth for the Church in any century is also improbable, as it cannot be restricted to people who exist immediately preceding the last seven years of this evil age.  The keeping and preserving power of the Lord has been in operation if He has dealt with humanity.  His promise to keep us from the hour of trial applies to all hours of trial.  It is not restricted to the last period exclusively.


Let me bring another text into the equation: “Be always on the watch and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).  This is a passage that speaks forcefully about an escape.  It is true.  However, this verse does not say anything about the Church being taken to heaven secretly for this escape happen.  This is important to our examination of the passages that relate to the rapture because some teachers accept this as a statement about the secret “first rapture.”

Jesus said to His disciples: pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man. We must ask ourselves, does this speak about a secret rapture that was meant to take the church to heaven for seven years before the end of the age?  This is highly unlikely, as Jesus prays for us in John a prayer that says: My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one (John 17:15). It is inconceivable that Jesus would pray one way for His disciples to be kept through trials, and then teach His disciples to pray to escape these same trials.  Sound theology accepts the whole Word.  Imprecise theologies are based on scant textual evidence or small portions of Scripture as the solitary reason for their existence.  This is a lousy belief at its worst.

From a textual standpoint, the word escape is attached to Armageddon, or at a minimum, some point at the very end of this age, not seven years earlier.  Revelation 16:15-16 is a much more sensible application.  It reads: “Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.” 16 Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.”  This reference to an escape is an allusion to us escaping the outpouring of God’s wrath on the earth at the end of the age, not the Great Tribulation.  Jesus gives us an indication of the need to escape. He tells us that: Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap (Luke 21:33-34).  The problem with the sudden and secret rapture is palpable, as it seems a little incongruous to have the events at the end of the age and the end of the great tribulation to catch the church off guard if the church were in heaven.  The passage continues with Jesus stating that: For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:35-36).

It is relevant to point out that we have Paul addressing this same concept, as he adds to our understanding in his letter to the church at Thessalonica.  Scripture records that: Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.  Paul specifically refers to’ the day.’  Jesus and Paul both admonish the church to be careful and to avoid the trap of becoming complacent or excessively focused on the trappings of this world. 

Notice that both these passages refer to the ‘day.’ This moment in time will bring “quick destruction” upon unbelievers, not the redeemed.  Those who dwell outside the portals of salvation will “not escape.” Those who do escape the destructiveness of that day will be made of those who are sober, spiritually awake, and watching for the return of Christ.

Matthew’s account of the Olivet Discourse, parallel to Luke 21, mentions the day of the Lord, which also carries a measured warning.  Here we are told that:  No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:36-39).

Think about the destruction that occurred during the day of Noah. Those who listened to Noah’s proclamation of the Word of the Lord escaped through the day of trial.  Their escape was found because they were not destroyed by the other humans.  We are told that universal destruction will erupt in the world again, with a major difference between then and the future defeat.  In Noah’s day, the world was destroyed by water.  In the coming days, the world will be destroyed by fire. Just as it was in Noah’s day, people will be consumed in sin.  Just as in Noah’s day, those who pay attention to the Word of warning from the Lord will escape and not be destroyed, along with those who live outside of faith.  In both instances, the escape is difficult as the saved are relieved from the points of destruction that predicate the end. 

What we do know from Scripture is that the appearance of the day of destruction is hidden as to its time, not the escaping of the day itself.  It is a time of uncertainty in so far as our ability to pinpoint its time of arrival.  In Noah’s day, no one knew when the flood was coming until it arrived.  Jesus tells us that the future day will spring upon the world’s people like a snare or trap, quickly without notice.  This is when sudden destruction will happen.  The day is the secret, not the escaping of the day or epoch.  Therefore, Paul says that it will come “like a thief in the night, with men proclaiming peace and safety immediately before the end. 

Take note of the fact that all three passages take into consideration the issue of warnings against eating and drinking.  These standard functions symbolize apathy, and the routine nature life can bring, as people take on a cavalier attitude about the return of the Lord.  It pays to pay attention and to remain alert.  This is what we do know.  All three of the passages confirm that the moment in time referred to by the term the day of the Lord is indeed the end of the age.  Both Olivet Discourses found in Matthew and Luke express that both “heaven and earth shall pass away.”  Paul addresses the event as being a time when “sudden destruction” would fall on the wicked.  All these passages point toward resolving these difficulties with believers in Christ Jesus escaping the destruction that will be poured out on earth through God’s wrath.  Luke encourages us to pray that we “escape these things.” 

[1] τηρέω [tereo /tay·reh·o/] v. From teros (a watch, perhaps akin to 2334); TDNT 8:140; TDNTA 1174; GK 5498; 75 occurrences; AV translates as “keep” 57 times, “reserve” eight times, “observe” four times, “watch” twice, “preserve” twice, “keeper” once, and “hold fast” once. 1 to attend to carefully, take care of. 1a to guard. 1b metaph. to keep, one in the state in which he is. 1c to observe. 1d to reserve: to undergo something (Strong’s). 

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