Kept From the Hour
Throughout this column, I have repeatedly referred to the rapture of the Church as occurring in the middle of the 70th Week, or what is commonly called “the Tribulation period.” There are many who disagree with me. They contend that the rapture must come before the 70th Week, before any of the judgments described in Revelation, based on the promise, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Rev. 3:10).
How can we go through the seals, they say, when God has promised to keep us from the hour of trial? Clearly, God will rapture us before the beginning of the 70th Week.
The reasons are as follows:
1. The Lord has promised to keep all believers only from His wrath, which occurs during the Day of the Lord, not from periods of trial or tribulation — no matter how intense they may be.
2. The Lord made the promise “I will keep you from the hour of trial” only to one church, the Faithful Church, the Church of Philadelphia, not to all six churches addressed in Revelation.
3. The “hour of trial” does not cover the entire 70th Week, but only the period of the seals.
4. The Greek verb “to keep” does not necessarily mean “to remove physically,” as suggested by the pretrib position.
Wrong thinking about the rapture repeatedly arise from inaccurate definitions of terms. In earlier columns, I discussed how misleading the wrong definition of God's wrath and the Great Tribulation can be. The use of the phrase “kept from the hour of trial” falls prey to the same error in thinking.
Let's look at the phrase more closely. Pretrib proponents take “kept from the hour of trial” to mean that God will keep—by physically removing—His children from this time of great destruction. But according to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, the Greek word used for “to keep,” tereo, does not mean “to remove.” It means “to guard from loss or injury, by keeping the eye upon,” and comes from the root teros, which means “a watch.”  There is nothing in this definition that implies “to remove,” and yet this is exactly what the pretrib proponents claim.
In fact, many Bible versions do not translate this phrase “keep you from.” For example, the New American Bible translates this “save you from”; the Living Bible translates it “protect you from”; and the Amplified Bible translates it “keep you (safe) from.” In its footnotes, the New International Version explains, “The Greek for this phrase can mean either `keep you from undergoing' or `keep you through.'”
In either case, it does not mean “to remove.”
The second part of the phrase is “the hour of trial.” The Greek word “trial” is pelagos, which is sometimes translated “temptation” or “testing.” In the
King James Version, this verse is translated “hour of temptation.” In the New American Standard, New Living, and Contemporary English versions, it is translated as “the hour of testing.” The same word, pelagos, is used in the familiar verses: “Lead us not into temptation (pelagos), but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:13); “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation (pelagos)” (Mark 14:38); and “Now, when the devil had ended every temptation (pelagos), he departed from Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13).
This word, pelagos, is in no way associated with God's wrath. Rather, it implies a time when believers will be tried and tested for their faithfulness, as Jesus was tested in the wilderness.
From where will the temptation come? During the beginning of sorrows, and intensified during the Great Tribulation, the Antichrist will create a tempting alternative to the suffering and persecution that will occur under his reign. Will God's people buy into the Antichrist's satanically empowered system? Or will they stand firm, even at the expense of their lives? This will be a time characterized by famine, war, and natural disasters. Will believers act unselfishly, sharing their food, medical provisions, and shelter? Or will they hoard for themselves and their families, allowing others to go without?
How will they respond to God during this time? Will they lift up the name of Jesus and give Him glory? Or will they grumble and complain against Him, allowing bitterness and resentment to grow in their hearts? The persecution and testing during the six seals will be intense, and so will be the temptation (pelagos). What will God's people do?
The first half of the 70th Week, that which is covered by the seal judgments, is not God's wrath, as many people believe. Rather, as Rev. 3:10 tells us, it is a time of testing, of purification, for the Body of Christ. As the prophet Daniel writes of the same time period: “And some of those of understanding [believers] shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time” (Dan. 11:35).
In the 18th Century, Samuel Johnson wrote:
“It is by affliction chiefly that the heart of man is purified, and that the thoughts are fixed on a better state. Prosperity has power to intoxicate the imagination, to fix the mind upon the present scene, to produce confidence and elation, and to make him who enjoys affluence and honors forget the hand by which they were bestowed. It is seldom that we are otherwise than by affliction awakened to a sense of our imbecility, or taught to know how little all our acquisitions can conduce to safety or quiet, and how justly we may inscribe to the superintendence of a higher power those blessings which in the wantonness of success we considered as the attainments of our policy and courage.” —Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)