Summary: An in depth look at the controversial text in the Revelation of Jesus Christ
The Church in Philadelphia
“Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” (Revelation 3:10)
This verse, which is found in the midst of the Lord’s message to the church in Philadelphia, is one of the most studied prophetic verses in recent times. It is used by some to prove, and by others to disprove, the timing of the rapture which has become a somewhat controversial and often times emotional topic in Christian circles.
Those who hold to the pre-tribulation rapture say that this verse proves their position of the church being promised exemption from “the hour of temptation” by the rapture. Those who hold to a post-tribulation rapture say that the church will be protected by being kept out from within the midst of “the hour of temptation.”
In order to resolve this highly charged issue, which in fact is separating believers and causing much discord among the brethren, let us define the terms the Lord used by asking a few simple questions:
1. What is the Lord promising?
2. What is “the hour of temptation”?
3. Who is being kept from “the hour of temptation”?
4. Who will go through “the hour of temptation”?
5. Where will “the hour of temptation” take place?
The Lord says He will “keep thee from the hour of temptation” which is the same as the Greek grammatical construction in the request He made of the Father in His great high priestly prayer:
“I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil [one].” (John 17:15)
The Lord Jesus Christ is asking the Father to “keep” believers “from the evil [one]” while they continue to be in the world in order that the world might believe that God the Father is the One Who sent the Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:21, 23, 25).
The only time the words “keep…from” appear together in the New Testament is in these two verses. Being kept from while in the midst of the world which is ruled by “the evil one” (John 17:15) or being kept from while in the midst of the worldwide “hour of temptation” is the literal sense of both of these phrases.
Exactly what “the hour of temptation” is must then be defined. The word “hour” is used ten times in the Revelation and refers to a certain but short period of time when accompanied with the article “the”:
1. “the hour of temptation” (Revelation 3:10)
2. “the hour of His judgment is come” (Revelation 14:7)
3. “the time [hour] is come for Thee to reap” (Revelation 14:15)
The New Testament word “temptation” is usually associated with being tempted to do evil, but it can also refer to a time of testing or proving in order to determine or improve the quality of those who are being tested.
The Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament completed before the time of Christ, uses this same word to define “an experiment, attempt, trial, proving”. New Testament examples include: “The trial made of you by my bodily condition, since this condition served to test the love of the Galatians towards Paul, Gal 4:14…the trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy etc.: I Pet 4:12”. (Thayers Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament p.498)
John, the human author of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, uses the verb form of “temptation” five times (John 6:6, 8:6; Revelation 2:2, 2:10, 3:10) and the noun only once (Revelation 3:10) in his writings. In all but one occurrence (John 8:6) he uses the word to describe a test being given to produce a result which will prove or improve the quality of those being tested.
The Lord Jesus Christ when addressing Philip His disciple set before him a simple test using this same word:
“And this He said to prove him: for He Himself knew what He would
do.” (John 6:6)
The Lord also gave the patriarch Abraham a major test that is later recorded in the New Testament:
“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that received the promises offered up his only begotten son.”
James in the classic “temptation/testing” passage (James 1:1-15) records this verse:
“Blessed is the man that endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.” (James 1:12)
These examples illustrate how this word is used to try or test a person in order to produce a response or outcome from the test being given. The tests were not given in order for the Lord to find out how these two men would respond for He already knows the beginning from the end in every circumstance.