No study on the second coming of Christ would be complete without a detailed investigation of the controversial passage found in Revelation 3:8-10. Once again, I beseech the reader to have a good handle on all the prior chapters leading up to this path in our journey, as each new study builds upon the previous one.
As we begin we need to get an accurate view of the context. There is a load of information that could be shared as an introduction to studying the book of the Revelation, but we are not studying the book, just a few passages; therefore, I’ll keep my comments limited.
It seems to me that over my many years of reading books and hearing messages on prophecy that often the claim is made the book of Revelation is really one of the easiest Bible books to interpret, to which the innocent layperson would respond, “Well, I’ve read it a couple of times and it sure aint easy for me to understand!” And while I’ve never heard it stated, I get the impression from authors and preachers that they would like to answer these people with, “Relax kid, you’ve got me to help guide you through it now.”
Listen to me, friends. The book of Revelation is one of the easiest books to butcher! There is so much symbolism that no matter which theological persuasion you hold to, you can readily twist the scriptures in these chapters to add credibility to almost any doctrinal position on the end times you wish. In order for the average layperson to discern real truth, you must be like the Bereans in the book of Acts and search the entire counsel of God when someone presents their particular view as biblical truth. And yes, I firmly believe this applies to my views as well.
To start out, I’m having us take a quick look at the first three verses in Revelation chapter one, and then I will ask three questions. They are easy questions and should not cause any “test anxiety”.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near (Rev. 1:1-3).
First question: This book is the Revelation of whom? The answer is, Jesus Christ. What is the purpose of the Revelation? The answer is, to show or reveal what must shortly take place. Who is in charge of what will be shown or revealed? The answer once again is, Jesus Christ. And since Christ gives or shows the Revelation, should we expect it to confirm, perhaps coordinate, complement, supplement and augment what He taught and revealed to His apostles during His earthly ministry? It certainly wouldn’t negate or contradict what He taught and revealed during the incarnation, would it? Of course not.
Who receives the Revelation of Jesus Christ? Is it a Jewish prophet or Jewish priest named John? The answer is, the apostle John, one of the founding fathers, one of the original patriarchs of the Church.
Whom is the Revelation primarily intended for? The answer is, the bond-slaves of Christ. But who are the bond-slaves? They would be the faithful, dedicated and committed Christ-followers. All believers are called to be bond-slaves but the unfortunate reality is comparatively few attain the position of being totally sold out for Jesus.
There is an important issue we need to keep in mind. Revelation is not only the last book of the New Testament, it is the last book of the Bible. As such it performs a critical function in that it integrates the Old and New Testaments in a very remarkable way, and the rallying point of this integration is the subject often referred to as “the end times”. Much of the Revelation deals with the time period I prefer to identify as Daniel’s seventieth week of years, and personally, I do not exempt Revelation chapters 2 and 3 as playing a part during that period as well. There we find messages to seven churches that existed in John’s day. While all of these churches have passed from the historical scene (none of them exist today), the legacy of each church seems to linger on. Even today, if you seriously and honestly examine various local churches you will often find they seem to generally fit the description of one of these seven congregations of old, including the church you may be attending now. Not only that, but it is very common for any local church to undergo some type of transforming event or process, good or bad, at some point in its history, resulting in that church mirroring a different church among the seven listed.
I admit I shy away from the dispensational view that the whole Church Age should be divided up into seven periods and, depending on which historical period is being discussed, the world-wide Church at large will reflect one of these seven churches. Right now, since so many are convinced we are nearing the final stage of the “last days”, the Church in general is said to reflect the last church on the list–the church of Laodicea. This church is described in Revelation 3:16-17 as being spiritually lukewarm, smugly satisfied and content with their own self-righteousness. Is this the condition of the Church at large today? What a slap in the face of churches in scores of countries where testimonies abound to the faithfulness of Christ followers…HUPOMENO’ing…in the face of severe suffering, persecution, affliction, torture and death. What about the many missionaries I have met personally having a zeal for Christ and a love for souls? They aren’t able to minister without the prayer and financial support of like-minded local churches. Do we discount them because some group of scholars says the Church today is represented by the historical church of Laodicea? I don’t know about you but that bothers me.
My observation is there are many representatives of each of the seven churches in every generation, including the present one.But this amounts to personal opinion. Is there any scriptural basis for my opinion? How about Revelation 2:25? It’s a statement given by Christ to John for the church at Thyatira and reads, “Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.” The word translated “come” is a form of the Greek word HECO. Do you remember the definition? HECO means to come and be present. The same basic message is given to the church at Sardis in Revelation 3:7, where HECO is also used. Since we’re looking at this, let’s also note the Lord’s messages to Ephesus and Pergamum in Revelation 2:5 and 16. He tells them to shape up as “I am coming to you”; but here we find the word ERCOMAI used. Remember this Greek word implies movement, as with Christ coming on the clouds of heaven. When will the Lord come and be present? When will He be coming on the clouds of heaven? The answer is, at His PAROUSIA. If the ancient churches of Ephesus, Pergamum, Thyatira and Sardis fulfill their prophetic roles by being periods of Church history, which have already come and are now long gone, how is it Christ admonishes them to hold fast what they have until He comes to be present with them? The only answer that fits the scriptures has “representatives” of these types of churches illustrated in every generation leading up to the PAROUSIA of Jesus Christ.
Let’s look at part of the Lord’s message to yet another one of those churches that existed in John’s day, yet is worthy to be imitated in our day–the church in Philadelphia.
Vs. 7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:
Vs. 8 ‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.
Vs. 10 ‘Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth. NASB
Notice in verse eight the Lord praises the church for three accomplishments. As we journey on, I would like you to keep them in mind. What are those accomplishments? He told them:
1) you have a little power
2) you have kept My word
3) you have not denied My name
We are now ready to look into verse ten, one of the most contested, controversial, distorted, misinterpreted, manipulated verses in the book of Revelation…as well as being a veritable treasure trove of insight for those who seek the truth and possess the tools to mine the wealth of information tucked inside the verse. But let’s look at the surface first. Plain and simply put, the Lord is telling them because you have already done something for Me, I am going to do something for you. And let me remind you that although these messages to the seven churches were applicable to the actual churches of John’s day, these messages are also valuable for churches of any generation–but specifically those in existence during Daniel’s 70th week of years as we recall the near/far principle of Bible prophecy fulfillment. In principle and application, since this is still valid as future prophecy, we can also view this as a promise to be claimed. Let’s find out just what that promise really is.
Our Lord says, “Because you have kept…I also will keep”. There’s a little bit of unintentional word play going on here. The Greek word for “kept” is a form of the root word translated “keep”. The Greek word we want to check out is the verb TEREO (pronounced: tay-reh’-o), According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary it means, “to guard, keep, watch, preserve, reserve, to give heed to”. Look at all the nuance of this word! And sometimes it is translated “observe” or “follow” and sometimes it is used to convey prevention from escaping. Do you get a distinct impression that authority and ability pervade the definitions of this Greek word?
What is it the saints in the church in Philadelphia were praised for guarding, keeping, preserving, observing, following and giving heed to? The answer is, the word of My (Christ’s) perseverance. If I were to paraphrase this part of the verse I would say something like, “My commandments” or, “My teaching” or, “My instruction…regarding perseverance”. While the translation of the NASB being, “the word of My perseverance” is accurate, to me it doesn’t convey the depth of meaning possibly perceived by John when he received the vision.
The next question to answer would be, just what is the Lord’s instruction, commandment or teaching regarding perseverance? To find out we need to check on the Greek word for “perseverance”. It is a form of the word HUPOMONE (pronounced: hoop-om-on-ay’), the noun form of the now famous HUPOMENO, which is a verb. HUPOMONE means “patience, patient endurance, an abiding under, persistence, steadfastness” (usually within the context of suffering, affliction or persecution/tribulation). Alright, what is the Lord’s teaching regarding perseverance? Our first clue is found within the context of this paragraph, in the second half of verse 8, as Christ informs the church that, (you all) “have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” See how this links to the Olivet discourse? Recall in Matthew 24:9 Jesus said, “you will be hated by all nations“. And then He provides a specific reason why His followers would be hated; it is “on account of My name.”
In Matthew 24:10-12 the Lord mentions many will fall away, deliver up and hate one another, many will be misled, lawlessness will increase and love will grow cold. All this leads up to famous verse thirteen which admonishes that the one who HUPOMENO’s, the one who bears-up courageously under suffering and adversity…to the end, that one will be rescued, delivered, saved!
The next clue to look at is in 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12. I know we already looked at much of this but we need to reinforce Paul’s teaching and see the link to the passage in Revelation 3.
2 Thessalonians 1
Vs. 3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;
The love of the Thessalonians was enlarging toward each other, in contrast to growing cold, as will commonly happen during the great THLIPSIS.
Vs. 4 therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance [HUPOMONES] and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.
As you read verses 5-12 again pay close attention to verses 11 and 12, as they complete the link to our passage in Revelation.
Vs. 5 This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.
Vs. 6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you,
Vs. 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire,
Vs. 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
Vs. 9 And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,
Vs. 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed–for our testimony to you was believed.
Vs. 11 To this end also we pray for you always that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power;
Vs. 12 in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. NASB
When we “keep the faith”, when we are faithful and persevere through persecution, adversity and affliction the name of the Lord is glorified in us! And see how the writer of Hebrews ties love toward the name of God to true, bonafide Christian ministry:
For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints (Heb. 6:10).
Now we will turn our attention to Revelation 13. Though we should read all of the first ten verses I am not going to provide all of them here. They deal primarily with “the beast” or the one referred to as the Antichrist, and we already covered much of this chapter in an earlier journey, though from a different perspective.
Vs. 4 and they worshiped the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?”
Vs. 5 And there was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies; and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him.
Verse five helps establish that much of the information given here pertains to the second 3 1/2 year period of Daniel’s seventieth week of years, which would include the period of Great Persecution/Tribulation. As you read verses 6 and 7, I want you to notice the beast’s blasphemy against the name of God and his attack against those we customarily associate with upholding the name of God.
Vs. 6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.
Vs. 7 And it was given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them; and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.
Vs. 8 And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.
Vs. 9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear.
Vs. 10 If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints. NASB
Did you notice the contrast of the earth dwellers of verse 8 and the saints of verse 7? Do you understand the principle being taught in verse 10? What is happening here in these few verses we are looking into? The beast is blaspheming God and His name, and he is attacking God’s representatives–the saints, those who uphold the name of God, with the result that, with the consequence that, the saints are overcome and a great many are slain. Do Christ followers have a legitimate excuse to despair then? In verse 9 John admonishes the reader to pay attention and listen up. He wants us to be sure to let the next two sentences sink into our understanding. In verse 10 he writes something a bit odd and a little difficult to figure out. I believe John is informing us if anyone is taken into captivity or killed or experiences consequences the unsaved world would categorize as some type of defeat, it is not because God is impotent to defend His children–it is because it is part of His sovereign will and His pre-determined plan from the foundation of the world. God’s omniscience and omnipotence and sovereignty must be reckoned with. God has always been in control in the past–and He will continue to be in control in the future, regardless of “bad” things happening throughout human history. And so John writes, “Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” He is encouraging the saints to stay motivated, to persevere and to keep the faith and continue to uphold the Name of Jesus Christ–in spite of the fact that it will be given to the beast to make war with the saints and to overcome them, because there will come a time when the beast, as well as all who worship him, will be accountable for their free will decisions and wicked conduct toward the saints. And the consequence of their decisions and wicked deeds will be the forfeiture of eternal life with God, and instead, spending eternity in the lake of fire with the devil and his angels. This principle, in my humble opinion, applies to our understanding of what Christ meant when He said “Because you have kept the word (or, instruction, or teaching, or commandment) of My perseverance...”
One last passage on this subject of perseverance and patiently enduring. We looked at this passage in a previous chapter so I don’t feel the need to make any comments, I just want you to read it again as it closely follows what we have covered in Revelation 13.
And another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice,”If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus (Rev. 14:9-12).
Do you see the links to our verse in Revelation 3:10? All three passages contain the same Greek word for “perseverance”, the word, HUPOMONE. As we look at “the word of My perseverance” in verse 10 we see it is directly linked to the perseverance of the saints as they…now make sure you get this…as they patiently endure the suffering of persecution and tribulation associated with the period referred to by many as the time of Satan’s wrath, but also referred to as the Great Persecution/Tribulation period.
Returning back to Revelation 3:10, the next significant portion of the verse to consider is, “I also will keep you…” (“Because you have kept…I also will keep you”). As previously mentioned the word “keep” in this verse is another form of the same word translated “kept”, the Greek word TEREO, which means, to guard, watch over, keep, observe, follow. Checking out the context of our passage, there should be no question there is some type of threatening or adverse circumstances surrounding this word. Obviously, if we are going to translate TEREO with our English word “keep” in this verse it should be done with the full realization that guarding and watching over is more than just implied–it’s truly intended here. We could say it carries the meaning that Christ will protect.
At this point in our journey it is time to take a few deep breaths; maybe stand up and do some stretching–something to get the blood flowing to the brain. Be sure to seek the Holy Spirit for discernment. Ready now? Let’s look at a very pivotal yet controversial word in verse 10. It’s the word “from”. If we only had the English version of the Bible we might justify a controversial atmosphere over the meaning of this word in this verse, as every major theological camp will point to verse 10 as providing solid support for their theological position, whether Pre-Trib, Mid-Trib, Post-Trib or Pre-Wrath. But from the Greek there should simply be no question. It is so simple and straight forward that I get ashamed and embarrassed for the teachers, authors and pastors that refrain from properly dealing with this little word.
Here is how I discovered the way Revelation 3:10 complements, supplements, augments and verifies the conclusions we have already drawn from all the other passages dealing with Christians experiencing the Great Persecution/Tribulation. Most likely the vast majority of students that ever took any type of Beginner’s Greek course in the last 100 years learned about the word “from” the same way I did, through a teaching aid known as the “Preposition Chart of Greek Words”. The professor hands out a piece of paper with a diagram that looks something like the following, except there are many more prepositions included than the three on the chart I am providing here. I have limited my chart to only the prepositions important to our study. If you click on the chart it will expand for you to see without having to use a magnifying glass. This chart is not ideal but it is better than nothing:
In the old “Beginner’s Greek” class, the prepositions were illustrated using a similar chart for the student to learn from. There would be “over”, “upon”, “in”, “under”, “beside” and so on. In order to understand the controversy–and the solution to the controversy surrounding our passage, we need to look at three Greek prepositions. Interestingly, two of these prepositions are not found in our verse.
Those of the Post-Tribulation Rapture camp are of the persuasion that the Church will go through the entire “7 Years of Tribulation” and will be “raptured” right at the end–and then Christ will return almost immediately afterward. Years ago when I was in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture camp we would fire salvos of criticism at the Post-Trib’ers and poke fun at them by calling the Post-Trib Rapture position the Yo-Yo view because of the Church going up to meet Christ in the clouds–only to come right back down, maybe the very same day, to rule with Him in the Millennial Kingdom. We would set up a “straw man” argument and boldly state, if John wanted to reveal the Church going through the 7 Years of Tribulation he would have used the preposition DIA, which means “through”, and would thus render the translation of the text, “…I will keep you through the hour of testing…” The Pre-Trib Rapture camp then makes a fuss that John didn’t use the preposition DIA, therefore those of the Post-Tribulation camp (position) were wrong! And obviously (in the eyes of the Pre-Trib’ers), if the Post-Trib’ers have been proven wrong, then the Pre-Trib position must be right! Alas, the poor straw man; he got the stuffing pounded out of him, and there he lay a total mess, all over the floor.
However, a strangely similar argument can be made against the Pre-Tribulation Rapture position, without the need of creating a “straw man” argument. Let’s take a look at a second Greek word illustrated on the prepositional chart. On a line located away from the big circle in the middle of the chart is the preposition APO (pronounced: ap’-oh). It is translated “from” but carries the distinction of “away from” or “separate from”. As a practical example, consider the following: “Keep your skin from (APO) contact with poison ivy.” An actual usage in scripture is found in Romans 5:9. I will also provide verses 3-5 because it provides an excellent context that is complementary to our current passage in Revelation 3, and gives significance for the illustration in verse 9.
Romans 5:3-5 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations [THLIPSIS], knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Vs. 9 “Much more then having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from [APO] the wrath of God through Him.” NASB.
This is an excellent verse providing scriptural support for Christ followers NOT going through the “wrath of God” period following the Great Persecution/Tribulation. Well, we’ve looked at two prepositions so far and neither of them appear in the original text. Which preposition does appear in the text…and does it really matter?
The pivotal word found in the Revelation 3:10 original text is the Greek preposition, EK. Usually translated, “from”, its primary connotation is, “out from the midst of”, and also, “out from within”. Importantly, EK is commonly used when a point of reference is involved; hence there are passages where it is translated, “of”. We find the word EK used to help signify the subject’s relation to some reference point, with the context of the verse identifying and describing what that reference point is. The reference point itself can be a condition, or some situation, or a location (such as a mother’s womb). At times, the location is an abstract location such as, the “world”, where the reference is not actually indicating the physical world as such, but an abstract generalization such as, the world system, or even, Satan’s world system.
On the prepositional chart EK is illustrated as an arrow that starts inside the big circle and extends out of it, indicating, “out from the midst of”. How simple, how plain to see and easy to conceptualize.
Let’s look at a few scriptural usages of this preposition. I’ll start with a very simple, straightforward example having no questions surrounding the interpretation.
And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they came up out of [EK] the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch saw him no more, but went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:38-39).
Nothing mysterious involved in these verses; they went into the water, then came out from the midst of the water. EK shows us the relationship of Philip and the eunuch to the water…the water being the point of reference.
There are several examples found in the gospel of John, illustrating perfectly the nuance associated with a proper translation of the Greek to English.
Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He should depart out of [EK] this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. (John 13:1)
There shouldn’t be any need for commentary on this verse either. It should be very obvious what the context is and what Jesus meant to communicate when speaking these words to His disciples. The Lord, who was in the world, was departing, out from the midst of, the world…the world being the point of reference, plain and simple. The next example is more complex and helps illustrate some of the diversity associated with this pivotal Greek word.
John 15:19 “If you were of [EK] the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of [EK] the world, but I chose you out of [EK] the world, therefore the world hates you.” NASB (emphasis mine).
As can be seen John used the preposition EK three times in this passage, with “the world” being the point of reference…listed four times! It should be obvious that the Lord chose the apostles out from the midst of the world, not away from the world. Be sure not to confuse the point that Christ followers are to be spiritually separate from the world once we are redeemed…with the point that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, purchasing us and choosing us out from the midst of the slave market of sin.
Our next example is a great one taken from what is commonly referred to as “The High Priestly Prayer”, which was offered by the Lord Jesus just hours before the crucifixion.
“I do not ask Thee to take them out [EK] of the world, but to keep [TERESES] them from [EK] the evil one.” (John 17:15) NASB
This part of the prayer is offered on behalf of disciples of Christ. The Lord does not ask the Father to remove His followers out from the midst of the world but rather that He would…hey! Is that a form of the word TEREO? It sure is! In His High Priestly Prayer our Lord asks the Father to watch over, guard and keep His disciples…out from the midst of, “the evil”. The word “one”, as found in the NASB, is not found in the original Greek though it could be implied. It is my opinion that when looking at the broader context of the passage, since Jesus made numerous references to “the world”, it makes sense to interpret His request as asking the Father to protect and guard His followers out from the midst of Satan’s evil power and influence or, Satan’s evil, world system as the point of reference. The similarity of statements made by the glorified Christ to the church at Philadelphia in Revelation 3:8-10 regarding “the hour of testing”, is more than intriguing in my opinion.
Another example is from Acts 3. The context is the healing of the lame beggar in the name of Jesus through the apostles Peter and John.
And a certain man who had been lame from [EK] his mother’s womb was being carried along… (Acts 3:2).
In the original text it reads EK KOILIAS and could be translated “out from the midst of (the) womb”. We could paraphrase it as “from the day of his birth”, or, as the New International Version plainly and simply reads, “from birth“. This man was lame starting the day he came out from the midst of his mother’s womb. He was in the womb, then he was born, coming out from the midst of the womb [EK KOILIAS]. If I’m not careful I’ll make it more complicated than it need be.
Another example is one from Galatians. The context is Paul’s greeting or introduction in his letter addressed to them.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of [EK] this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen (Gal. 1:3-5).
The Galatians back then, like we are today, were in the midst of the “present evil age”. In grace, God has completed everything necessary in order to deliver us, or, as the NIV states it, “rescue us”, EK, out from the midst of the present evil age. I don’t think you really need to be a scholar to grasp the encouragement or Paul’s intention in writing this.
Another point I would like to mention. As I studied the Revelation 3 passage I wondered, if Christ is granting the promise of guarding and protecting the believer as a reward (“Because you have kept…I also will keep”), doesn’t there have to be a test? If the ones who receive the blessing are not tested, how is it determined that they did indeed keep the command, the instruction regarding “perseverance”, thereby qualifying for the blessing?
There is a final passage we need to deal with regarding this fascinating little preposition. Long ago in our journey, when we were looking at Matthew 24:21 which deals with the Great Persecution/Tribulation, we looked only briefly at the two additional passages that mention the term “great persecution/tribulation” in the New Testament. At the time I promised to come back to one of those passages and look at it in a little more detail with you. It is now time for me to keep my promise.
Vs. 9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from [EK] every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands;
Vs. 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,
Vs. 13 And one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and from where have they come?”
Vs. 14 And I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of [EK] the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. NASB
Do you remember the context here? This scene takes place after the breaking of the sixth seal in chapter 6 in which the day of the Lord is announced, but before the breaking of the final seventh seal of the scroll in chapter 9 which introduces the first judgments to occur during the day of the Lord’s wrath against the wicked and ungodly. John sees a great multitude that have come out from the midst of, EK, every nation, tribe, people and language group. John is then asked who these people represent. After deferring, he is told they are the ones who come out from the midst of the great tribulation/persecution. These are the elect, the saints, those who comprise the true Church…who have been “raptured” out from the midst of the Great Persecution/Tribulation. And look who else is standing along with this group. Did you notice why I included verse 11? It’s all the angels! If every Christian is assigned at least one Guardian Angel during our life on earth, and the Son of Man sends forth the angels to gather the elect, it stands to reason those angels would be in heaven with the elect they were put in charge of guarding.
Revelation 7:15-17 identifies a partial list of the rewards and benefits obtained by the members of this group of people. Revelation 7:9-17 provides us with an excellent complementary and supplementary insight for understanding the instruction of Revelation 3:10-12.
Bear with me while I share yet one more interesting role played by the word EK. The English word “church” found in numerous verses of scripture comes from the compound Greek word EKKLESIA. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary it is made up of EK, “out of, out from the midst of” and KLESIS, “a calling”. The true Church is made up of those who are “the called out ones”. The redeemed are those who have been called out from the midst of Satan’s evil world system. After being called out from of the midst of (EK) the cosmos, we are then sanctified, “set apart” (APO) from the world and are no longer to be entangled with the world’s agenda, but to live unto God.
The Hour Of Testing
Christians are going to be in the thick of a situation which will test their volition, exposing those who obey His instruction on keeping the word of the Lord, and not denying His name, from those who don’t. The Lord promised those who follow after and observe His instructions, His teaching, regarding perseverance and do not deny His name, that He will guard and watch over and “keep” them out from the midst of (EK), “the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth.”
When I read that, I came up with two major questions. First, what is “the hour of testing“? Second, when does that period occur? As you may have already observed, opinions vary among godly and sincere scholars and students of the Word. Let’s see if we can discover the truth in God’s holy Word. To begin with, notice the definite article, “the”. It is the hour of testing; it is something specific to help distinguish it from other potential considerations. Remember back when we studied 2 Thessalonians we looked at “the” apostasy and “the” man of lawlessness? Those are examples of a specific and limited event and individual. So it is in our current passage. We are also informed it is “the hour” of testing. This obviously is not to be taken as a literal sixty minute test period but rather it denotes an historical period that has a start and a finish. It has boundaries; it is limited in duration. It is somewhat comparable with the “day” in the “day of the Lord’s wrath”, which is far longer than a 24 hour period of time.
The key to understanding the reference point in this phrase begins with an understanding of the Greek word translated “testing” in the NASB. Years ago, as I was studying under the ministry of Pastor/Teacher Michael Bryant, a graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary, he gave instruction on two particular Greek words; one often translated as “testing”, the other translated as “tempt”. He taught the Greek word DOKIMAZO (pronounced: dok-im-ad’-zo) meant “a test to prove genuine” and is often used in reference to God. A second word was PEIRAZO (pronounced: pi-rad’-zo), and he informed me it is never used in reference to God but is used in reference to Satan. He told me the word meant “a bonafide solicitation to sin”. The Greek word used in the text of Revelation 3:10 is the noun, PEIRASMOS (pronounced: pi-ras-mos’), a different form of the verb, PEIRAZO. It would be prudent at this point in our journey to take a quick look at a few verses that use these two words so we can get a clear understanding of what is meant by the phrase “the hour of testing“.
Consider it all joy , my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing (dokimion) of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).
That is the kind of test that produces positive consequences. Here’s another verse.
Blessed is the man who perseveres [HUPOMENEI] under trial [PEIRASMON]; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted [PEIRAZOMENOS], “I am being tempted [PEIRAZOMAI] by God”; for God cannot be tempted [APEIRASTOS] by evil, and He Himself does not tempt [PEIRAZEI] anyone. But each one is tempted [PEIRAZETAI] when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust (James 1:12-14).
As you can see, in these three verses every one of the words translated tempt, tempted, etc. is a form of PEIRAZO or PEIRASMOS. Why are these verses important to our understanding of the true meaning of the phrase “the hour of testing”? They dispel the notion that the hour of testing is sponsored by God or ascribed to God or associated with God. God has no direct involvement with the tests, the temptations that comprise “the hour of testing”. By that I mean He is not the one who initiates those tests. Please understand that I am not saying God is setting aside His sovereignty, omnipotence, omniscience…and is not involved in any way. God is always in control of every situation. On the other hand, there are verses that provide direct links of forms of PEIRASMOS testing to the devil and we shall now look at some of them.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted [PEIRASTHENAI] by the devil (Matt. 4:1).
And the tempter [PEIRAZON] came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread” (Matt. 4:3).
Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt [PEIRAZE] you because of your lack of self-control (1 Cor. 7:5).
For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter [EPEIRASEN] might have tempted [PEIRAZON] you, and our labor should be in vain (1 Thess. 3:5).
The conclusion then, is “the hour of testing” is sponsored by and associated with Satan, the devil. It is in reference to some specific time period in which there is “solicitation” and some type of attempt to “entice” people to choose for Satan and his agenda. Does scripture speak anywhere of such a time period? Sure! We can piece various passages together to make a pretty clear picture indicating “the hour of testing” is basically the same as The Great Persecution/Tribulation period. Being careful to keep the proper context we can gather pieces of information from what the Lord revealed to the disciples in the Olivet discourse, then add information from 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Daniel, 2 Peter and Revelation.
We have already looked somewhat into Revelation chapter 12, containing John’s vision of a yet future time when Satan would be cast out of heaven, come to earth having great wrath, be enraged against the Jews and those holding to the testimony of Jesus, and know he has but a short time to pull off his plan. To this we will add a few verses from Revelation 13, which is also a chapter we somewhat checked out already.
Revelation 13:2 And the beast which I saw was like a leopard and his feet were like those of a bear and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.
Vs. 4 and they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast saying, “Who is like the beast and who is able to wage war with him?”
Vs. 7 And it was given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them; and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. NASB
I want to read a few partial verses from 2 Peter that I believe help to drive the point home. Even though we looked into these verses before, we need to look at them from this perspective and see how wondrously scripture links together in so many marvelous ways.
II Peter 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned...
Vs. 5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah...
Vs. 6 and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah…
Vs. 7 And if He rescued righteous Lot…
Vs. 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation [EK PEIRASMON] , and keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, NASB
Remember what we discussed before when we covered these verses. They help to illustrate that re-occurring pattern we see time and again–a period of testing, followed by the rescuing of the righteous, followed by the judgment and destruction of the wicked. And check out verse 9! The Lord knows how to rescue the godly- EK, out from the midst of, temptation!
We can confidently affirm then that “the hour of testing” is the period identified as the Great Persecution/Tribulation which is sponsored by the devil. It will begin in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week of years at the occurrence of the Abomination of Desolation. The testing will end when this period is cut off, curtailed, docked. What events are responsible for cutting short the Great Persecution/Tribulation? The answer is, of course, the PAROUSIA of the Lord Jesus Christ and the initiation of the day of the Lord’s wrath–when, as the prophet Isaiah reveals, the Lord alone will be exalted during that time. This is of course in contrast to the Great Persecution/Tribulation or, as some (including myself) like to refer to it at times as, the period of Satan’s wrath. This is based upon Revelation 12:12 and 1 Thessalonians 1:10 which I modify to read, “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from [EK] the dead, that is Jesus, our deliverer from [EK] the wrath to come.” Well, would you look at that! There’s that intriguing preposition EK popping up again. What a blessed promise it brings. Our Lord will deliver His saints out from the midst of…the wrath to come. You know, this verse reminds me of a passage from Revelation. I believe it is…chapter 3…verse 10.
You know, the Bible is replete with illustrations of rescuing saints out from the midst of various trials, afflictions, persecutions and tribulations. In the Old Testament we could consider examples like the children of Israel coming out of the land of Egypt; Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego delivered out from the furnace of blazing fire. And certainly the account of Noah and the world-wide flood is a classic and vivid illustration. In the New Testament we see how the high priest imprisoned the apostles in a public jail but an angel of the Lord released them (EK) out from the midst of the jail. We read of Peter’s imprisonment in Acts chapter 12, and Peter’s confession given in verse 11: “Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from [EK, out from the midst of] the hand of Herod…”
Given the many examples in the scriptures, it should be no surprise God’s plan is for people to experience a time of testing and evaluation to determine who are the genuine Christ followers, and who are the pretenders. Following the test, He will rescue the true Church out from the midst of the Great Persecution/Tribulation period. After His rescue, He will proceed to administer His judgmental wrath upon the wicked and ungodly, before establishing His Kingdom on earth. It should be no surprise because God does what He says He will do…and this is what He has said He will do. We would do well to listen, learn and prepare.
What I am about to express is very important. I want to be sure no one is misled by my interpretation nor do I want to be accused of presenting false principles. Let me make it perfectly clear. I am not declaring that all those who keep the word of the Lord regarding perseverance and do not deny His name during the period of “Great Persecution/Tribulation”, this “hour of testing“, are going to be protected and brought through alive and well, in order to be raptured out before the day of the Lord’s wrath commences. Many, many blessed saints will actually die a martyr’s death at the hands of wicked, ungodly forces. The scriptures make this adequately clear. The percentage of Christ followers who die during this era could be far greater than the percentage who survive until the PAROUSIA of Christ. We have no way of knowing at this time. Revelation 13:7 informs us the beast is given the authority to make war with the saints and to overcome them. Do not claim this fact cheapens, dilutes or nullifies the promise the Lord has given to the saints of that period. We can in no wise appreciate in this life the eternal rewards promised to them, for the Lord states, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev 3:12 NASB)
Whether the Lord guards and protects and keeps His child, bringing them out from the midst of the hour of testing alive, or brings them into His presence in glory before His PAROUSIA, this promise is one to be treasured and claimed. The apostle Paul said it best: For me, to live is Christ- but to die is gain!
I have long felt too many western Christians fail at carrying out their civic duties due to an erroneous belief that today’s world is so corrupt it means Jesus is going to be coming any day now to whisk them away in the rapture. Then He will deal with the injustice of the day. Just look at current events and it will be obvious prophecy is being fulfilled nearly by the hour. Well, remember the book previously mentioned titled “Eighty-nine reasons Christ will return by 1989”? While we wait for the Master’s return are we not to go about the Master’s business? Does that not include supporting and enabling like-minded others to positions of authority? Should the Christian community engage in rallies initiated by a group of pastors but shun the efforts of those who seek election into offices in order to enact laws complementary to principles of scripture? If the Christians among the founding fathers of the United States pledged their “sacred honor”, are not present day Christians just as obligated to pledge theirs in preserving the constitutional liberties of this great land? How obvious does Satan have to be in using taunts and accusations in efforts to negate Christian influence and involvement before these lies are no longer tolerated by the evangelical, Christian community? The liberal religious community has no qualms being pro-active with their votes! It saddens me to think of how many will have their faith shaken to the core when they find themselves enveloped in the Great Persecution/Tribulation, unprepared because they followed teachers of theology who misinterpreted the Bible regarding the doctrine of the return of Christ. I fear many of these people will be the most susceptible to the appeals of the coming false prophets and false Christs.
As I make my point I pray you understand it comes from a heart of concern AND love. It is now time to address the final section of the Olivet discourse. We shall continue our journey once again in Matthew chapter 25.