Revelation 3:10

to persevere
Perseverance is especially needed in the midst of adversity. Jesus said that it would be by patience that believers “possess your souls” (Luke Luke 21:16-19). Persevere is ὑπομονῆς [hypomonēs] , which may include the idea of expectation related to the promise to be kept from the hour:

Arndt and Gingrich hold that the word hupomone sometimes meant ‘(patient) expectation.’ They indicated that is its meaning in the expression ‘patience of Jesus Christ’ in Revelation Rev. 1:9+ and that perhaps that is its meaning in Revelation Rev. 3:10+. . . . One thing in favor of this view is Christ’s exclamation in Rev. Rev. 3:11+, ‘Behold I come quickly, hold that fast which thou hast.’1


keep you from the hour of trial
A large body of discussion attends this phrase. The debate centers on whether from (εκ [ek] ) here denotes out of or through. Is the promise to keep the church out of the trial or to preserve it through the trial? Proponents of the kept through view observe other passages where εκ [ek] can have this meaning.2 They also observe examples in Scripture where God’s people are protected in the midst of God’s judgment:

On the very same day Noah and Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark. (Gen. Gen. 7:13)

Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Ex. Ex. 12:13)

Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past. For behold, the LORD comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain. (Isa. Isa. 26:20-21)

“Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” . . . They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. (Rev. Rev. 7:3+; Rev. 9:4+)

Proponents of the kept from view point to the fact that the most natural use of εκ [ek] indicates out of and that if the alternate meaning were in view, another more suitable preposition would have been used.3 They too can point to passages which support their view—where the faithful are removed prior to God’s judgment:

And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. (Gen. Gen. 5:24)

And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?” . . . Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” (Gen. Gen. 18:23-32)

And he said to him, “See, I have favored you concerning this thing also, in that I will not overthrow this city for which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. (Gen. Gen. 19:21-22)

The problem cannot be solved simply by appeal to similar passages since both models of protection are found in Scripture. This is because saints occupying different roles in history find themselves in different situations with regard to what God is doing in their midst. There is not a “one size fits all” approach to how God chooses to protect the faithful: at the time of Noah’s flood, Enoch “walked with God and he was not, for God took him” (Gen. Gen. 5:24), yet Noah and his family were preserved through the flood within the Ark (Gen. Gen. 7:13). We believe that by these typological examples, God is teaching us that some saints will be raptured whereas others—who come to faith later—will be protected in the midst of His wrath. But, the simple answer to the question at hand is found by reading the promise more carefully, for the promise is not to be kept from the trial, but from the hour of trial. The church will not even experience the trial for it will be kept from the hour when the trial is visited upon the earth.

Christ promised to keep these church saints form the time period characterized by the testing Christ had in mind. If the Lord had meant that He would keep them from just the testing itself, He could have made that very clear by omitting the words ‘the hour’ and simply saying, ‘I will keep you from the testing.’4

When the all-important word hour is factored into the discussion, it becomes clear that the promise relates to the time of trial and not its effects. Mark 14:36; Luke Luke 22:42],’ and the parallel or equivalent request, ‘save me from this hour [John John 12:27],’ he was not praying to be spared during the hour, but to be kept from it, which settles the meaning of the expression here.”5 Too often, commentators fail to grasp this important distinction. For example:

It is far from clear that the removal of Christians from the earth would be the only possible way in which Jesus could keep His people from the wars and plagues anticipated to occur at that time. [emphasis added]6

But this line of reasoning is flawed because the verse says nothing about being kept from wars and plagues—the promise is to be kept from the hour or time. A serious problem with the kept through view is that God’s promise is of little merit in view of the fact that Scripture records multitudes of the faithful will suffer violent death during this period (Dan. Dan. 7:21, Dan. 7:25; Dan. 8:24; Rev. Rev. 7:9-16+; Rev. 12:11+; Rev. 13:7+; Rev. 20:4+):7

Even if the church saints were to be shielded from the testing of God’s wrath will bring on the earth in the period of testing Christ had in mind, the Scriptures (Rev. Rev. 6:9-11+; Rev. 13:7+, Rev. 13:15+; Rev. 20:4+) make it clear that many of the saints alive on the earth during that period will be martyred by unbelievers. Thus, even though they will not be put to death by God’s wrath, they will still experience violent death as if they had not been shielded from God’s wrath. This militates against the answer that Christ will shield or protect the saints in or through that period of testing.8

This verse does not say that the Church will be merely kept safe during the trial, but it will be kept from the very hour of trial, that is, from the very time of it. This requires a removal before the Tribulation ever occurs. If Revelation Rev. 3:10+ means that the Church will be kept safe during the Tribulation, then something goes terribly wrong. Throughout the Tribulation, saints are being killed on a massive scale (Rev. Rev. 6:9-11+; Rev. 11:7+; Rev. 12:11+; Rev. 13:7+, Rev. 13:15+; Rev. 14:13+; Rev. 17:6+; Rev. 18:24+). If these saints are Church saints, they are not being kept safe and Revelation Rev. 3:10+ is meaningless. Only if Church saints and Tribulation saints are kept distinct does the promise of Revelation Rev. 3:10+ make any sense.9

This hour of trial is said to come upon the whole world (see below) and cannot relate to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as some hold for there was no need to protect the Philadelphian church from events hundreds of miles distant which had offered no direct physical threat to Asia Minor. This promise relates to a unique time of trial yet future that all believers shall escape due to their participation in the Rapture. In this, the passage has in common a typological and future application like that of Revelation Rev. 2:20-22+ where Jezebel is cast into great tribulation. See commentary on Revelation 2:22. See Rapture.

which shall come
τῆς μελλούσης ἔρχεσθαι [tēs mellousēs erchesthai] , the one about to come. “The participle τῆς μελλούσης [tēs mellousēs] (‘which is about to’) modifies ὥρας [hōras] , ‘hour,’ rather than πειρασμοῦ [peirasmou] , ‘trial,’ showing that it is the hour, not the trial, that is prominent in the statement.”10

the whole world
Some interpreters take world (οἰκουμένης [oikoumenēs] ) as denoting the land in Israel or the Mediterranean in order to find fulfillment in the events attending Rome and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

In A.D. 68, the death of Nero, and the civil wars that followed, greatly threatened the stability of the Roman Empire, until Vespasian was made emperor in A.D. 70. During this same period (A.D. 66-70), the Jews were embroiled in a fight for the survival of their nation against the Romans . . . which they lost.11

It is true that this term is used in contexts where its scope is not global (Luke Luke 2:1; Acts Acts 11:28; Acts 17:6; Acts 19:27). However the term is also used in a global sense elsewhere (Mtt. Mat. 24:14; Luke Luke 4:5; Luke Luke 21:26; Acts Acts 17:31; Rom. Rom. 10:18; Heb. Heb. 1:6; Heb. 2:5; Rev. Rev. 12:9+; Rev. 16:14+).

This same expression is used in Revelation Rev. 16:14+ to refer to the kings of the whole inhabited earth gathering together to battle at Armageddon in conjunction with the sixth bowl judgment . . . it was used in Jesus’ statement concerning the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom in all the inhabited earth to all nations during the future tribulation period (Mtt. Mat. 24:14 [cf. Rev. Rev. 14:6+]). In both of these passages, it must refer to the entire inhabited earth, not just the Roman Empire.12

Thus, it is not a technical term and it’s meaning is determined by the context. Even if we permit the preterist interpretation that world here means all the known world, the events of Nero in Rome and the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 had little impact at Philadelphia in Asia Minor:

The Neronian persecution was limited to Rome as far as the data tell us, and there is no evidence for it extending to the province of Asia at that time.13

What does a localized judgment hundreds of miles away have to do with the seven churches of Asia? John uses two long chapters in addressing those churches regarding the implications of the coming of Christ for them. For instance, the promise to shield the Philadelphian church from judgment (Rev. Rev. 3:10-11+) is meaningless if that judgment occurs far beyond the borders of that city.14

The context of the book of Revelation and the events which it describes—the wrath of God being poured forth on an unbelieving world prior to the return of Christ—argue for the global sense here. This time was described by Jesus in terms which are clearly global:

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. (Mtt. Mat. 24:21-22)

For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke Luke 21:35-36)

Of special interest is Jesus’ statement recorded by Mark. In describing the uniqueness of this time, He mentioned since the beginning of creation, another indication of global scope. This is in contrast with the words told Daniel by the angel that it would be the most unique time since there was a nation when describing its effects upon the Jewish nation (Dan. Dan. 12:1).

For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be. And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days. (Mark Mark 13:19-20) [emphasis added]

An early teaching from the Didache alludes to this passage and takes it in a global sense:

For as lawlessness increases, they will hate and persecute and betray one another. And then the deceiver of the world will appear as a son of God and “will perform signs and wonders,” and the earth will be delivered into his hands, and he will commit abominations the likes of which have never happened before. (5) Then all humankind will come to the fiery test, and “many will fall away” and perish [emphasis added]15

Like the believers of Philadelphia, those who trust in Christ prior to this time will be kept from the hour . Yet Scripture also records numerous saints who will come to faith during this horrific period and will walk through the events of their day—often ending in the ultimate witness—death (Rev. Rev. 7:9-16+; Rev. 12:11+; Rev. 13:7+; Rev. 20:4+). Some suggest that the trial or test of this time period will have at least three purposes: (1) to serve as a witness to God (Dan. Dan. 11:35; Dan. 12:10); (2) to purge the rebels from Israel and turn the elect to God (Zec. Zec. 13:7-9; Mark Mark 13:13); (3) to demonstrate the unrepentant state of the earth dwellers.16 Even as the earth dwellers remain steadfast in their rejection of God, the believing Jewish remnant will swell:

“Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, against the Man who is My Companion,” says the LORD of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; then I will turn My hand against the little ones. And it shall come to pass in all the land,” says the LORD, “That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one-third shall be left in it: I will bring the one-third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; and each one will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’ ” (Zec. Zec. 13:7-9)

Only the faithful will dare risk supporting the Jewish faithful during this massive outpouring of anti-Semitic and anti-Christian sentiment (Mtt. Mat. 25:31; Rev. Rev. 12:13+). See Trouble Ahead.

Notes

1 Renald E. Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1995), 209-210.

2 “To be kept in temptation, not to be exempted from temptation (τηρεῖν εκ [tērein ek] not being here==τηρεῖν ἀπό [tērein apo] , Jas. Jas. 1:27; Pr. Pr. 7:5 cf. 2Th. 2Th. 3:3); a bush burning, and yet not consumed (cf. Isa. Isa. 43:2).”—Richard Chenevix Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1861), 178. “The words τηρήσω ἐκ [tērēsō ek] are to be understood from John John 17:15: God’s people shall receive special protection in the trial rather than exemption from it (ἀπό [apo] ; cf. also 2Pe. 2Pe. 2:9).”—Colin J. Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 164.

3 “The idea of the saints being shielded from the testing while living within and through its time period also would have been expressed more clearly through the use of another preposition, either en (meaning ‘in’) or dia (meaning ‘through’) [thus, ‘I will keep you in or through the time period of testing’] rather than ek.”—Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 212.

4 Ibid., 211.

5 Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), Rev. 3:10.

6 Steve Gregg, Revelation Four Views: A Parallel Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 76.

7 “If Gundry’s view of Rev. Rev. 3:10+ is correct [that the church will be guarded and preserved during God’s testing of earth-dwellers during the Tribulation], then one is left with the colossal problem of reconciling the fact that multitudes of believers will die under the fierce persecution of Antichrist during the Tribulation and yet God supposedly will preserve His people physically through the Tribulation.”—Keith H. Essex, “The Rapture and the Book of Revelation,” in Richard L. Mayhue, ed., The Master’s Seminary Journal, vol. 13 no. 1 (Sun Valley, CA: The Master’s Seminary, Spring 2002), 29-30.

8 Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 212.

9 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 155.

10 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), 288.

11 Gregg, Revelation Four Views: A Parallel Commentary, 77.

12 Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 214.

13 Grant R. Osborne, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 8.

14 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 225.

15 J. B. Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989), 158.

16 The idea that the trial is also to refine believers is contradicted by this verse which states that the ones to be tested are the ones who “dwell upon the earth”—a technical term in the book of Revelation for those who remain unrepentant during the events of the end. “This same expression occurs in Revelation Rev. 6:10+; Rev. 11:10+; Rev. 13:8+, Rev. 13:12+, Rev. 13:14+; Rev. 14:6+ and Rev. 17:8+. In its usage it is not giving us a geographical description but rather a moral classification.”—J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958), 197.

Read Revelation 3:10