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I was recently asked a very important question:

Revelation 3:10 and the Rapture: A Greater Miracle - a Tougher Question

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"Is Revelation 3:10 a proof text for
a pretribulation Rapture?"
I will try to be brief - but this is an important subject . . .
First, we need to capture some context . . . Revelation 3:10 was written to the sixth church, Philadelphia. There are three ways that scholars tend to look at this church as well at the other six:
A literal church:
Philadelphia was a literal church in Asia Minor. It is now called
Alasehir and has a mostly Muslim population. It was destroyed (and rebuilt) in 17 A.D. and again in 23 A.D. by earthquakes. It was primarily a Hellenistic (Greek) influenced town, and was one of the last to get started of the seven mentioned in Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation. The Apostle John is believed to have nurtured that church, and the church was known for their faithfulness. It was a small church, possessing but little strength, and if compared to today's churches in America, it would be the small country church with but a few families to occupy it. But their faith was strong and unwavering, and they refused to quit in the face of growing Roman and Jewish persecution.
A picture of church history:
As a period in church history, most holding this
view put it in the 1800s and early 1900s since that is when the greatest missionary movements in the Protestant churches occurred. The Philadelphia church is described by Jesus as having open doors that no one can shut, and that He Himself held the keys. They were faithful because they "kept His Word and did not deny His name." The missionary movement period continues today, but not with the strength and fervor that it once had. In fact, one could argue that under communism (in its various forms), Islam, and other political factors, more doors have been shut to the gospel today than over the last 500 years.
A church type:
As a church type, this would be the view that any
missionary-minded church of any period during the last 2,000 years would fit the description. The Philadelphia church type would be a friendly church (brotherly love), faithful to God's Word, and perhaps missionary minded. They would not deny His name, and I'll assume, preach the gospel message without compromise (not a prosperity gospel . . . ).
All three meanings are possible. Clearly it was once a church in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), and there was a great period of revival and missionary activities that match the characteristics of Philadelphia, thus allowing for a period of time in the life of church history (last 2,000 years) to be matched to Philadelphia. But let's eliminate the first two (only from our current discussion) because:
If it only represents a literal church, it is long gone and can't have, therefore, gone through the Great Tribulation as it had not started at that time as we understand it (but terrible tribulation did exist during the Roman emperor persecutions and had we lived back then, I suspect we all might have believed that the Great Tribulation was in full swing!).
If a church period, it has expired, and therefore, also missed the Great Tribulation. I suppose this then qualifies us to say that the Philadelphian church history period did indeed miss the Great Tribulation, but they also missed the Rapture (I must assume we have not all living today missed the Rapture!).
As a church type, it still has application since there are churches that meet the characteristics today that the church at Philadelphia possessed, and we believe that we are in those final days of the last days described in the Bible that come just before the Great Tribulation and the time of Jacob's trouble as described in the Book of Daniel.
A final thought regarding "type": If either a literal church or a church history period that has already ended - not only did they miss the Great Tribulation - but so did all the other literal churches except for the Laodicea church period which presumably we are in today and will continue in until Christ's return (since it is the last church period based on sequence).
Now let's examine the key phrases and the Greek behind them . . .
"Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation . . . ." The word
which basically means hiding under, of patient enduring and
fortitude, or remaining behind (Strong's G5281). The "hour of testing", is the Greek word,
which means to examine or prove (Strong's G3986).
frequently translated "to tempt" (check 1 Thessalonians 3:5; James 1:2, 12-13), and we know that it is Satan who tempts. Blessed is the man that perseveres (
under trial (
) (James 1:12; paraphrased); God "does not tempt anyone." Mr.
Van Kampen in his book
The Sign
notes that in Revelation 3:10; 1 Peter 4:7, 12, 13;
and 2 Peter 2:9 that the believer is present during the
removed from it and therefore sets a precedence for the word usage (1992, pp. 451-453). The little strength allowed them to remain faithful, and to keep His word
while going through the trials,
who went through the flood, not around it or even time warped passed it.
Now look at "keep you from." In the Greek "will keep you from" is
tereo ek
G5083, G1537).
means to watch over protectively, guard and
preposition that carries the idea of being guarded or protected and rescued out
the midst
of danger. If the idea of keeping one from entering were intended the
should have been used and the phrase would have been
tereo apo.
So it is the idea of deliverance out from within rather than an external deliverance (i.e. having never even entered the testing). God promised them that in the midst of the trials they were to face, that He would protect them and guard them until the trial was over.
But is Revelation 3:10 a proof text for the Rapture? As to the Rapture implication, even Dr. John Walvoord (former president of Dallas Theological Seminary) states in his book
The Rapture Question
(1979), ". . . it may be debatable to what extent this
[Revelation 3:10] constitutes absolute proof for pretribulationism" (p. 67), and he is a pretrib rapture advocate.
What is the Greater Miracle?
The Greek more strongly leans towards protection from within the sphere of danger not protection from ever seeing the danger. Consider Noah and the flood. He was protected through the flood, not from the flood - a seemingly small point, but important to the more precise Greek use of the words. If it is correct that Revelation 3:10 cites God's protection through the hour of testing (trial), and not from the testing (i.e. rapture before), would it matter that God chooses to protect you while all around others are not (the lost) as opposed to a rapture prior to the tribulation even starting? Is God's protection somehow less if He does so through the fire as opposed to no fire? Ask the three Hebrew boys what would have been the greater miracle - saved through the fiery furnace, or the king simply having a change of heart and not throwing them in at all? Or take Daniel in the lion's den. King Darius knew he had been tricked and did not want to send Daniel to the lion's den, and what glory would there be had the story been ". . . and so King Darius in an unprecedented move, reversed his earlier decision and pardoned Daniel on the spot." Now that would have really messed that story up, wouldn't it! Where is God's glory in that? King Darius gets an atta boy, but not God.
A Tougher Question
I know that the rapture question is very important and frankly has become (at least in America) a dividing doctrine - but I have a greater question to ponder . . .
Do we (do you) qualify as members of the Church of Philadelphia? Are we those who have "kept the word of My patience" and therefore qualify for "I also will keep you from the hour of testing"? Earlier in the letter, Jesus states that the Philadelphians have (verse 8), ". . . a little strength, have kept my word, and hast not denied my name." Can you continue to stand strong, remain faithful, stay focused on His word, and be resolved to never deny His name?
The Greater Miracle - that God takes us through our fiery trials (no matter how big) and protects, guards, and nurtures us during them.
The Tougher Question - am I a qualified member of the Church of Philadelphia?
Final thought regarding the "is Revelation 3:10 a proof text for the rapture" question: I am convinced that Revelation 3:10 is not a proof text for a pretribulation rapture nor could it be as I understand the Greek - but it also does not cancel or disprove a pretrib rapture either. Some would add it to a long list of Scriptures that form the basis of a pretribulation rapture doctrine, but those who are honest do not.
Maranatha, Church!
not avoid them altogether. I liken it a little to Noah
is a
[computer software] . Franklin, TN: Equipping Ministries Foundation. (Original work published 1890)
Strong's Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries.
Van Kampen, R. (1992).
The Sign.
Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Walvoord, Dr. J. (1979).
The Rapture Question.
Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan
Strong, J.
Meyers, R. (2005). e-Sword.
(or it can also be translated perseverance) is the
Greek word
rather than being