This question is derived from a promise Christ makes to the Philadelphia church in Revelation 3. Let’s take a look at the reference.
Revelation 3:10-11 (ESV throughout)
10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.
The lens we look through determines what we see
The answer one derives from the article’s title will depend primarily on what presuppositions are held about the two primary events to which the hour of trial might point; the Great Tribulation(1) or the Day of the Lord(2). These two events are primary candidates because they are both related to our Lord’s return, which is itself a key aspect of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John (Revelation 1:1-7).
If you recall, Yeshua warned his disciples about the need to not be deceived regarding his future return (Matthew 24; Mark 13). As the time of his return approaches, the level of deception increases. The message of the Book of Revelation is to help those gifted with the Holy Spirit to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. It is in this way that those who hear the words of these prophecies are indeed blessed (Revelation 1:3). Those who hear and understand will not be deceived regarding our Lord’s return (Matthew 24:22-27; Mark 13:20-23).
Looking to Revelation 3:10-11, we can see that the judgment Christ is making is to the angel of the Philadelphia congregation. Theirs is mostly a positive assessment. The dispute over the hour of trial comes from those who see Christ’s claim to keep one from the hour of trial as a clear reference to the pre-tribulation rapture of the saints(3). From this perspective, Christ is coming for the church before the Great Tribulation begins to deliver them from wrath. Keep in mind this conclusion can only be arrived at from these three suppositions:
- That the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord occur at the same time
- That protection from God’s wrath means protection from all wrath
- The Hour of Trial is the Great Tribulation
Let’s address each of these in some detail. I’ve addressed them at length in other articles.
To begin to see the relationship between the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord: Read more.
- If one assumes that the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord are the same, then being saved from God’s wrath is essentially the same as being saved from Satan’s wrath.
- Scripture assures the faithful, who are reconciled to God, that they are exempt from his wrath. Through the reconciliation in Christ and continued repentance, his work in us can be completed and the purpose for God’s corrective wrath is no longer relevant. The exceptions we’re shown in five of the seven congregations of Revelation 2 and 3 are due to a failure to repent (Revelation 2:4-5, 14-15, 20-25; 3:2-4, 17-20; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
It is important to understand the different purposes and focus of Satan’s wrath from God’s perspective. One purpose is intended to prove the faithfulness of God’s called and chosen, his elect. It’s a test of faith not unlike that of Abraham, Jacob or Daniel (Hebrews 11:1-3, 17-22).
- Will they remain faithful until the end? (Hebrews 12:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 1:9-12; Matthew 24:12-13; 1 Corinthians 10:13)
- Will they continue as children of the light or return to the dark? (Philippians 2:14-16; Ephesians 5:5-10; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10)
- Will they love the work that Christ is doing in them more than their own lives? (1 Peter 1:3-9; James 1:12-13; Fourth Gospel(4) 6:27-29; 12:24-26; Mark 8:34-36; Revelation 2:25; 3:11)
These are the fruits that Christ will harvest from his faithful followers when he appears in the clouds to cut short Satan’s wrath against them. As noted earlier, the rewards for bearing such fruit are abundant.
- While the Great Tribulation can certainly be called an hour of trial for the elect of God, the question remains whether it is the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth, spoken of here.
Using the lens of the Holy Spirit to see
A larger context for understanding these verses comes from the vision and the vision-giver who is revealing the things that have been, the things that are (at the time the vision was received), and those things yet to come (Revelation 1:19).
The perspective of the vision is a supernatural one, and involves an assessment of the seven angels (not men) who’ve been given oversight of these seven Gentile congregations. Because the seven angels appear to have oversight of their respective congregations, the assessment is addressed to each of them (Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14).
Though these seven Gentile congregations do not represent the entirety of the body of Christ, together they do represent a subset of the body being overseen by the seven angels which are in Christ’s right hand (Revelation 1:16, 20); again, a supernatural perspective. It’s reasonable therefore to expect that the oversight of these seven angels continues to this day.
The group of people being addressed are obviously those believers who’ve been called to repentance and into the light of Christ. These are to be the firstfruits of our Lord’s salvation. This assessment by the High Priest of the church is an expression of his righteous judgment over it. It includes praise, warning, encouragement, promises, and a repeated call to continued repentance. The subject of continued repentance is raised eight times within these seven church judgments. As every faithful Christian knows, repentance is not a one-time event, but an ongoing process of spiritual maturation. It is also a theme that reaches throughout the Book of Revelation and goes mostly unnoticed. That’s a story for another time.
When we look at the assessment of the congregation at Philadelphia, we’ll notice that it is one of two churches where further repentance is not required, the other being Smyrna. One should not conclude that there is no need for further repentance, but that the regular practice of repentance (a teachable and humble heart) is an ongoing part of their growth and resulting praise.
The key characteristic of the Philadelphia congregation is that even though they possess little power, they’ve kept the Lord’s word and have not denied his name (vs 8). It is precisely for this reason that the Lord makes the promise to keep them from the hour of trial.
- You have kept my word and not denied my name (vs 8)
- You have kept my word about patient endurance (quietly enduring)
- I will keep you from the hour of trial (vs 10)
- I am coming soon (vs 11)
By comparison, in addressing the other five churches which exhibit the need for further repentance, Christ clarifies where they are lacking so that they can repent.
So how can we know with any certainty what period of time this hour of trial is referring to? The clarification comes from the surrounding context.
Revelation 3:9 – Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie – behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. (Fourth Gospel 17:21b, 23b)
Revelation 3:12 – The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.
Both of these promises will only be fulfilled after Christ has returned with power and authority – his second coming. It is at his second coming when the faithful are redeemed from the earth; the dead rising first, then those alive at the time are changed. Those kept from the hour of trial are those being redeemed (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11). These are the elect whom the Lord returns for to cut short their tribulation (Matthew 24:22; Mark 13:20).
The logical and reasonable conclusion then is that the hour of trial occurs after the Lord returns and after he has redeemed his faithful from the earth. This is consistent with the unfiltered view of scripture we’ve seen thus far. Therefore, we can accurately conclude that the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth, is in fact the Day of the Lord. Since the unbelieving and disobedient in the world have a part in the deception occurring prior to Christ’s appearance, it follows that, for them, the hour of trial is not referring to the Great Tribulation (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12).
To discover more about what Christ’s kingdom-building process means for his body of believers, the faithful in Israel, and unbelievers in the world, read my recent book . . .
The Rapture Question – An Unfiltered View
In addition, verse 11 applies further encouragement for this conclusion. In it, Christ provides further instruction for those he has promised – I will keep you from the hour of trial.
- I am coming soon. Encouragement for those patiently enduring the tribulation around them.
- Hold fast what you have. You’ve kept my word and my patience faithfully. Continue to do so until I return (Philippians 2:14-16; Revelation 2:25).
- Let no one steal away your crown. Remain faithful, humble, and teachable (the children of light). Let no one deceive you, thereby losing your promised place of authority (1 Peter 2:9-10; Revelation 5:9-10).
Finally in verse 12 we’re reminded, like those of the other congregations, the desirable rewards only go to those who conquer. However, ours is not a political or national conquering, it is a spiritual one; individually conquering the world through trust and faith in Christ our Lord. He will accomplish it in us. We need only stay focused, faithful, and in relationship with him.
There is much more to learn about each of these topics and links have been provided to related articles. Those tagged with Read more lead you to related channel questions and their basic answers. Those tagged Discover more are part of a more in-depth study program. Any tagged with Learn more address methods, processes, and resources which can aid your approach to learning. All are free resources to assist you in gaining a more unfiltered view of God’s word.
At the close of each article, the relevant presuppositions that support it will be cited. This enables the reader to gain a clearer and deeper understanding of the context. To learn more about presuppositions, see the About page.
- God is proactive and purposeful in all that he does
(Matthew 13:34-35; Ephesians 1:3-14; Hebrews 1; 1 Peter 1:18-21)
- God is faithful and will fulfill in those called and chosen what he has already completed in Christ (Fourth Gospel 1:9-13)
- God and his Christ are involved in a redemptive work for humanity
- A key method in God’s redemptive work involves the offering of reconciliation, redemption, and salvation to eternal life – all through belief in Yeshua as the Son of God.
- Entering into belief in the Son of God we leave behind the state of being under God’s wrath, which exists to humble the proud and correct the deceived. (Fourth Gospel 3:36; Romans 1:18-32; 9:21-23; Isaiah 2:6-22)
- All will have the opportunity to receive God’s righteous judgement and be led into the truth of Yeshua, the Christ, but some will not surrender to truth. (1 Corinthians 15:22-26; Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:11-13; Fourth Gospel 12:44-50; Romans 2:12-16; 11:32; Revelation 20:14-15)
- The grace of God is greater-than the sin of humanity (Romans 5)
- God’s redemptive work on humanity’s behalf is to save them from the second death, not the first death. The death spoken of in God’s command to Adam – in dying you shall surely die does not refer to spiritual death, but the second death – which results in separation from God and from which there is no hope of resurrection.
(Genesis 2:16-17; Fourth Gospel 3:14-21; 5:24; 6:40; Romans 5; 6; 1 Corinthians 15:19; Hebrews 9:25-28; Revelation 20:6, 14-15)
- Revelation 5 establishes Yeshua, the Christ, as the only one worthy to oversee the final events of the last days. He does this not just by his positional authority as the Son of God but also by his relational authority as the Lamb of God, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and the Root of David.
- There is no “gap theory” necessary to explain the end time prophecy of Daniel. The Seventy-Weeks prophecy speaks to the time of Christ(5)
- The Great Tribulation, as defined in scripture, is the time of Satan’s wrath when the Beast Power rules the world with deception for 3-1/2 years prior to the return of our Lord. (Revelation 13, Joel 2:31; Matthew 24:29; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12)
- The Day of the Lord is the period of time immediately following his appearance in the sky, and results in the execution of God’s wrath upon the ungodly and the disobedient. (Isaiah 13:5-13; Joel 2:31; Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-28; Revelation 6:17; 8:6; 9:20-21; 10:5-7; 15:5-8; 16:1-21; 19:11-21; 20:1-3)
- The Rapture Question – second edition, John F. Walvoord, New Testament Doctrine on the Tribulation (pg 44)
- We adhere to the belief that the authorship of the Fourth Gospel has been misrepresented. Typically this authorship is attributed to John the brother of James and author of the Book of Revelation of Jesus Christ. I have concluded on the side of such authors as J. Phillips, Edward Reaugh Smith, and Tobias Skinner who have shown conclusively John could not be the sole author and instead attribute primary authorship to Lazarus – the disciple whom Christ loved. Due to this, I will refer to the book as the Fourth Gospel.
- Desolation of the Temple and Messianic Enthronement in Daniel 11:36-12:3, Jason Thomas Perry, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 54.3 (September 2011, pages 487,494-499)