LOOKING AT THE PROOF TEXTS
(THE PRETRIBULATION RAPTURE PROOF TEXTS DISPUTED)
Anytime we discuss the rapture of the church, there are a number of passages that naturally have to be examined. Teachers of the Pretribulation view have what we term proof texts, passages they use to undergird their position. In order to properly challenge their view, we need to address these passages and assess their meaning. Let us now take a strong look at the passages of Scripture that are typically used in order to support the Pre-Tribulational Rapture doctrine.
The first and primary passage that must be addressed is a really significant portion of the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. The discussion wraps itself around the supposed “absence” of the word “Church (ecclesia)” in Revelation chapters 4-18. Revelation 4:1 states: “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. In addition, 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.” Because chapters 4-18 fail to specifically mention “church,” most Peretribulational teachers and writers use this absence as a major proof text for the stipulation that the Church will not be around for the majority of the period of time that is designated as the Tribulation.
It is their contention that Jesus will remove the church from the earth during this epoch as the Age of Redemption ends. Revelation 4:1 contextually informs us about the nature of John’s vision, specifically identifying how he was taken up to heaven where he was enabled to se things that pertained to God’s workings on earth. Peretribulational theory states that John is a representative here, and that he is used as type of the Church. The theological assumption is then made that this verse is meant to be understood as implying that all of the chapters that follow describe things, which will take place “after” the Church is gone. The stretch is made and a connection is formed based on John’s calling from heaven to come up here and see what God is doing on earth.
The problems that rise out of this approach are many. The basic challenge here relates to sound hermeneutical principles. The application of Revelation 4:1 as a statement that is applicable to the rapture is based only on assumptions and biases that lend themselves to a theology, as opposed to plain statements that are self-evident. This theological assumption identifies John himself as a type of the Church that is then applicable to the end of the age. This is based on the assumption that John being caught up to heaven illustrates the Parousia. There is an additional assumption made that states something akin to: since John saw things that would “take place after this,” identifies the events as taking place after the Church has been raptured away.
It is also asserted that since the word church does not appear in Revelation 4-18, we are to assume that the church has been excluded from the events of this period. It is also assumed that her absence from the earth during this time is fro a lengthy duration, as she will not reenter into the prophetic imaging again until chapter 19 of The Revelation. This is where we read about the marriage supper of the Lamb and the manifest appearance of Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This appearance is as the Reigning Lord over all, and is the culminating event of history, as we know it.
This postulation forces us to ask a pointed theological question: is the absence of the word church enough to prove that the Church itself is absent from the earth during the events that are recorded in chapters 4-18? Another question that needs to be addressed is why do we have to conclude that the church is also absent during the events of Revelation chapter 19, as the word church (ecclesia) does not appear anywhere throughout the entire chapter. Additionally, the word is also absent the 20th chapter of the Book. The word ecclesia does not re-emerge until the 21st chapter of the Revelation. This fact really begs the question as to why there is not a theological attachment to this absence as well. I do not think Tim LaHay, Hal Lindsay, or any of the other varied proponents for the church’s absence in chapters 4-18 want to extend the period of absence through the nineteenth, twentieth and most of the twenty first chapters of the Book. It is not until the last chapter of Revelation that we find the term church used again, and then only in a closing remark: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you (the Greek is plural) this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star (Revelation 22:16).” Now, consider with me another aspect of this argument. Revelation presents a concise Christology. The following is a statement to this effect.
THE CHRISTOLOGY OR REVELATION
- I) Prologue
The opening dialog of The Revelation consists of the preface (1:1-3), and the opening salutation (1:4-8). The beginning of the book states that the book is “the Revelation of Jesus Christ.” This is a revelation that has been made personally by Jesus the Christ specifically through His servant John the Revelator. Christ is the revealer of the information that is contained in the apocalypse, and Christ is the One who is personally revealed by John through his recounting of the events and information Jesus made him privy to understand. Jesus is disclosed by John and is uncovered in order to be presented in the world as an architect, and in the church as her Savior and ultimate redemption.
The content of The Revelation is assumed to be the Word of God. It is known as the testimony of Jesus Christ. All of the things that John was made aware of by sight consist of a new addition to the Scriptural record. In fact, a blessing is utilized that make this a distinct Word with an impact that is pronounced upon those that read, hear, and keep the words that are written in the book of The Revelation.
The Christological character of the Revelation is connected and related to the visions that John sees as a seer. Throughout each of the four primary visions, there is a unique portrait of Christ that emerges.
Vision 1: Christ in the Church (1:9-3:22)
The description of Jesus in this vision is that of the High Priest of the churches who interacts constantly with them, watching over their weakness, and preserving their usefulness. Jesus also acts to both correct and reveal His priestly makeup within His current ministry that is enacted until His return.
Vision 2: Christ in the Cosmos (4:1-21)
The fourth chapter contains a sudden transition, presenting us with a new conception of Christ. John as a prophet is lifted from earth up to heaven, where he is then permitted to observe what Jesus was doing on the earth. In his vision, Jesus Christ is viewed primarily as a Lion, which symbolizes Christ as he who is completely victorious. The lion also epitomizes a victory over his enemies that is complete once for all. In addition, this vision portrays Jesus as the Lamb who died sacrificially on behalf of men as a permanent replacement for all who place their trust in Him.
Vision 3 Christ in Conquest (17:1-21:8)
The consummation of world affairs Christ is central in this particular vision. As such, this third vision demonstrates that Christ Jesus is in the process of conquest, as He subjugates all who have opposed Him. The portrait that is recorded in Revelation 19:11-16 shows Jesus sweeping away the last barriers of evil, as He establishes His ultimate reign over men. This vision ends with the judgment of the righteous and unrighteous dead before the Great White Throne of Judgment, with some being rewarded, and others being condemned.
Vision 4 Christ in Consummation (21:9-22:5)
The final vision is resplendent with imagery, however only one title is used here that is also used elsewhere: “the Lamb.” This passage contains seven occurrences of the title: ‘The Lamb.” The first appearance of the title is one of definition, as it defines the real significance of the “Heavenly City (citizens of the New Jerusalem)” as “the bride/wife of the Lamb.” This idea is not unique to this passage, as the idea makes its first appearance in the previous section under the banner of “the marriage of the Lamb.” This union was pronounced as being a part of the ultimate victory of Christ Jesus. The marriage symbolizes the resident citizenship of the city insurance/assurance of redemption. Throughout this vision, the “throne of the Lamb” is connected with sacrifice and service as opposed to judgment (Revelation 22:3).
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 that rebellion against the author of his freedom. Adam gave himself over to the enemy of God. 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 own 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 (Numbers 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 believers experience in life through the price Jesus paid. So the Old Testament evidences 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 from 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 of 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 has been changed into a place of conquest and respect, which 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 significant cost that is associated with the death of Christ. This passage indicates that there is a parallel certainty that runs between the contributions of the blood of the sacrificial lamb, and 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 from 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 in it hold purifying influence. Because of the efficiency of Christ’s death, we are able to 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 if the Sacrifice of the Cross of Jesus, combined with the Blood of the Lamb that was shed, which stands as the main reason for all martyrs 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 set into the stream of human history it connected with all history in the mind of God. This makes allowance for the strategic the end of history to be made manifest due to the cross and its work within the ultimate purpose of God. God envisaged a plan in order to create a compact with man in the event that he rebelled against God. The potential of the Lamb slain had to have existed as a corollary to the consideration of 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. In addition, 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. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6 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 that, “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 entire blessing will be during the millennium. The greatest number of people will receive of the benefits of Christ’s redemption then 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 to much trouble, it is safe to assume that the nature and out working 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, goals, and it illustrates His absolute passions for his people.
The Church is not mentioned in chapters 4-18, we are told, and this is taken as proof that the Church is gone during this time. The problem this creates is immense. We have to ask why, simply because the Church is not mentioned, how this proves 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 chapters that follow, 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, standard Peretribulational teachings state that the church is not mentioned in any of the chapters following Revelation 3:22 thru 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. Virtually a of the references to what we know to be the church universal are made to local assemblies or local churches in Asia. Each one of these units is seen as being a 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 are concerned with “the seven churches in Asia.” The word church is used in each of the statements that are made to the seven churches: “To the angel of the church in Ephesus…” It is also used at the conclusion of each of the letters: “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 of the churches that were previously mentioned. 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.
Even though it is true, the word church does not appear after Revelation 3until the closing of The Revelation it should be obvious to see that the Church is referenced through other terms that create similar contrasting statements in the book. Revelation 13:7 is a great 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 above-mentioned referrals speak about the saints, which addresses the body of believers using a parallel euphemism as it identifies those who make up the churches composition.
However, those who believe that the Rapture is illustrated in Revelation 4:1commonly teach that the saints in these chapters are not church saints. Rather 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 Peretribulational 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 a 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 are told that this refers to the church saints. Here is how the passage reads: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” Scofield’s footnote states, “The Lamb’s wife here is the Bride, the Church.” Here Scofield agrees that the saints here are church saints. 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 a different type of saint, that is alien to this designation? 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.
John As a “Type” of the Church in Revelation 4:1
Let us assume that the churches of Revelation 2 and 3 in all actuality really do 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 a number 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 again: “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. In addition, 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 Peretribulational writers feel this verse specifically refers to the Rapture.
Scofield says, “This call seems clearly to indicate the fulfillment of 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 (the Rapture). The word church does not again occur in the Revelation till all is fulfilled.” DeHaan goes on to say, “This brief passage from Revelation is one of the shortest, yet one of the clearest pictures in Scripture of the Rapture of the Church. (35 Simple Studies on the Major Themes in Revelation, p. 61). Nevertheless, this verse is not addressing the Rapture, it is not even talking about the Church, and it is telling us about John and his very powerful 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 overwhelming things, which would come to pass somewhere in the distant future. John’s being caught up into 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. 4 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. 5 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 Peretribulational Rapture of the church in this passage must make major leaps and abandon sound principles of exegesis (among other things) in order 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 he is represented as being back on earth during most of these chapters. Revelation 10:1 and 18:1 tells us that John sees an angel “come (not depart) 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 the earth was illuminated by his splendor.”
His use of wording places him below heaven in these both of these 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 a period of 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. In order for this to take place 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 up 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 consistent representative of the church in heaven during the chapters that specifically address the Great Tribulation.
John’s Use of the Words, “Come Up Here” in Revelation 4:1
If we are to assume that the Peretribulational teachings are true, and that the word church does not appear after Revelation 3, and assuming that John is the correct representative of the Church in heaven, being taken up to heaven in Revelation 4:1, a final argument needs to be made. This will help in establishing the attempt to extract a Peretribulational Rapture truth from the verse under consideration. Peretribulational doctrine tells us that when the voice that spoke to John and said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this,” means that the church is in process of being raptured into heaven at this juncture.
However, the same Greek words: meta tauta (meta tauta), which are translated after these things at the end of the passage, are the exact same words that are rendered “after this:” After this I looked at the beginning of the passage. The verse starts and finishes with the same identical phrase in the Greek. This is not an accident. This is a double ellipsis, which means that it is important to note the substance that it is addressing. 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 in an identical manner 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 that came from heaven saying that he would be shown things, which would be 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 used regularly throughout his writings. Meta tauta Meta tauta has been translated in a number of 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);” “some time later (John 5:1); “after this (Revelation 4:1).” If we try to 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.
The Church at Philadelphia
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 completely out of the world in order for this word to be fulfilled. Unfortunately, the text does not indicate that this is an accurate interpretation.
Applying the Churches Primary Position
When we look at Revelation 3:10 contextually, we will see that its primary application as it pertains to the Church in Philadelphia, which was 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 there is a promise that is applicable to the passage. However, we need to ask a second question: how were they kept form tribulation? Was the position of ‘being kept’ one of being raptured to heaven? There really is nothing in the passages entirety that even remotely infers this to be true. By any examination of the actual historical facts, they were never kept from tribulation and trial during their actual historical positioning. Instead, they were kept by the power and grace of God’s intervention on their behalf
Does the church of Philadelphia Represent the Age of the Church?
Revelation 3:10 also needs to be examined as it applies to the teaching that the seven churches in Asia as representing 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 this been the case, Revelation 3:10 would by position of logical order would be the ‘last’ of the seven churches sequentially. However, the promise of being “kept from the hour-of temptation” as the KJV states was actually spoken to the sixth church, not the seventh. This problem is not mitigated by stating that in the last days a number of the last churches or church ages will overlap concurrently.
The reoccurring 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 hidden 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 pretribualtionalists teach that when Revelation 3:10 isunfolding; 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 church, 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, and 7. The problem surfaces when teachers change the order of the sequence as it applies to Revelation 3:10. When this is applied to the Peretribulational 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 together in order to achieve a harmonious position. This is how Scofield resolves the difficulty in his notes in the Scofield Reference Bible.
The Church should be able to draw benefits from the letters to the seven churches in any century. This basic view allows us to see Revelation 3:10 as establishing truth that is applicable to the churches in every century where the same or similar conditions may exist.
Being Kept From Temptation by God
As has been pointed out before, a recognized method of biblical interpretation is 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 the John who was a disciple and apostle. It is my hope that we will find that both verses identifies a type of promise. It is the Abrahamic type of promise. Nevertheless, in one of the passages a significant item is addressed that is Germaine 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 is going to 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 of these passages, the people that are being referred to have been people of their word. They have demonstrated faithfulness and kept the word. 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 the Tribulational Christians are being kept or protected from the evil of the age or the evil ones’ actions directed toward them, 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 that are under comparison use the expression “keep from” in the King James Version of the Bible as it translates into the English language. The New International creates a modest serration in the translation, which in itself can create confusion, as it conversely translates the verb eteresas (etresas/ /teresas (“keep” and “protect”), oti eterasas (oti eterasos)” because you keep,” I will keep “kago se tereso (kago se tereso).” 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 to 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 (Freiberg, 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 meaning of the phrases joint cooperation clauses. As we keep the word, He keeps us from the evil one.
The probability of this passages interpretation meaning we somehow escape hardship is highly unlikely, if not impossible. Rather, if we are of being in the world and yet still being “kept from” the evil of this dark age it is equally feasible that to be “kept from” the hour of trial or temptation can happen without us being taken out of the world through an elaborate escape clause.
Revelation 3:10 identifies for us important considerations 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 that is common to all men. However, Paul stipulates that there is a special promise that 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 another biblical reference that addresses humanity’s prospects concerning the act of being tempted to sin. 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 are whole bevies of other verses that also speak about God’s ever-pervasive keeping power, yet out of all these passages, not one of them involves 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 is able to 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 key words 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,” 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 Revelation 3:10 mentions 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 earth as a lasting habitat, as compared to 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 living 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 rather 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 why some have seen this passage as:
- That this passage explicitly pertains to the Philadelphian Church that is mentioned in The Revelation of Jesus Christ historically in its particular 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 position on millenarian positions. Even the extremist Preterist view does not appear to take this radical of a position.
- Practically relating to the seven church ages, or dispensations in a historical sense as they have extended form 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, it is not precise or accurate.This application makes for good isegesis, but it is not good exegesis. This is seen readily as we have seen. This theory falls short of reaching the last Church age, which should be the seventh However, in order to make this hypothesis for the Philadelphian Church, a change in the order of appearance has to be constructed, with the sixth and seventh churches changing places in the order of succession.
- The relevance of the passage 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 as long as He has been dealing 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.
The Escape Clause of Luke and in the Olivet Discourse
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 passage 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. The reason this is important to our examination of the passages that relate to the Rapture is there are teachers who 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 have to ask ourselves, does this speak about a secret rapture that was meant to take the church to heaven for a period of 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 bad belief at it 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, as 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, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 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. 4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. 7 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 up of those who are sober, spiritually awake, and watching for the return of Christ.
Matthew’s account of the Olivet Discourse, which is a parallel of Luke 21, mentions the day of Lord 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 in 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 in the fact that they were not destroyed along with the rest of the human race. We are told that universal destruction will erupt on the world again with a major difference between then and the future destruction. In Noah’s day, the world was destroyed by water. In the future day, 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, not being destroyed along with the people who live outside of the faith that sustains believers. In both instances, the escape is through difficulty 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 people of the world 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. This is why Paul says that it will come “like a thief in the night, with men proclaiming peace and safety immediately prior o the end.
Take note of the fact that all three passages in consideration issue warnings against eating and drinking. These normal functions are symbolic of 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 that is referred to by the term the day of the Lord is indeed the end of the age. Both of the Olivet Discourses that are found in Matthew and Luke use the expression 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 of these passages point toward a resolution of these difficulties with those who are believers in Christ Jesus ESCAPE the destruction that will be poured out on earth through God’s wrath. Luke’s encourages us to pray that we “escape these things.”
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).