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Kept from the Hour of Trial
In Defense of the Faith
Friday, August 11, 2017
Alf Cengia

Some time ago I saw an individual's anti-pretrib comments on various social media platforms. He wasn't just part of the usual anti-pretrib police. This man was promoting his new book, claiming to expose the fallacious pretrib rapture. I finally bit and downloaded the Kindle edition. 

Whenever I read that Darby taught two ways of salvation; or that he relied on Margaret MacDonald; or that Harold Camping was a pretribber (he was amillennial) - I know the author is biased and/or hasn't done the homework. Such was the case here.

According to the book, one of the fallacies of pretribulationism is its appeal to Rev 3:10 as a rapture passage. The book's rebuttal draws from posttribulationist Robert Gundry's arguments. These include the meaning of the expression "tereo ek" as used in Rev 3:10 and John 17:15. Gundry argued for protection within the time of trial.

Note: Richard Mayhue has responded HERE. See also Jeffery Townsend's The Rapture in Revelation 3:10 and Tony Garland's commentary.

The book's prewrath author presented a similar conclusion to Marvin Rosenthal (The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church). Rosenthal contended that Rev 3:10 wasn't a watershed verse which determined the timing of the rapture - instead, Rev 3:9-10 dealt with the keeping from the temptation within the Great Tribulation.

Despite the claim of fallacy, at least two leaders of the prewrath system treat Rev 3:10 as a rapture passage. They (Charles Cooper & Alan Kurschner) agree that believers are raptured out of the world so as not to experience God's wrath, based on this promise.

Interestingly, Cooper even agrees with John Niemelä's premises regarding the grammar of Rev 3:9-10 (though not the timing). Niemelä suggests a revision of the punctuation, like so:

Verse 9) Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie - indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you because you have kept my command to persevere.

(The above underlined part is normally included in v 10 below)

Verse 10) 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.

Notice that this revised punctuation removes the condition for being kept from the hour of trial. Pretribulationism doesn't need this particular argument. But if correct, it counters the notion that persevering through the Great Tribulation is a precondition for exemption from God's wrath.

The promise to the Philadelphian Church applies to us today. In Niemelä's second presentation, he writes:

For almost 2000 years, physical death has been the means for preventing Church Age believers from living into the hour of trial. Christ kept His promise to the first century Philadelphians. In so doing, He has given a prototype of the way that He delivers the entire Church. The deliverance is Pre-tribulational. Thus far, death has been the means of deliverance. However, the final generation of the Church will receive its deliverance via the Rapture.

So the essential difference between Cooper's view and pretribulationism is a disagreement on what period constitutes God's eschatological wrath. For Cooper, God's wrath only occurs within a technically defined period, after "Antichrist's Great Tribulation."

Most premil posttribulationists see God's wrath only occurring during the Day of the Lord, just before the millennium. While pretribulationist Richard Mayhue concurs that the DotL occurs at the end of the 70th week, he also acknowledges that God's wrath is present throughout the seven years.

On the other hand, some scholars note that the DotL isn't always confined to a single, technical, moment. In Central Themes in Biblical Theology, Paul House writes that the NT writers saw the DotL as a possible past event, "potentially in the present, and future oriented in time." According to William Dumbrell:

The concept of the Day of the Lord, as considered by the prophets, is not singular in meaning; the connotation can be determined only by examining each context in which the phrase appears. ~ The Search for Order: Biblical Eschatology in Focus

This explains the differences in Joel's and Paul's DotL statements regarding the DotL (Joel 2:31; 1 Thess 5:2-3). Can anyone be in a state of "peace and safety" after the 2nd and 4th seal judgments?

God's wrath is present in the elements of the fourth seal. The language parallels Ezek 5:13-17; 7:3-19; 14:21. Why does John use Old Testament wrathful language in the 4th seal if such isn't the case? Or, as Robert Van Kampen asserted, for an event which exclusively affects the church and the Jews in order to purify them?

This isn't the kind of tribulation we ordinarily experience in the world (Rev 1:9). This is God's wrath.

God uses people and nations as instruments of His wrath. See Habakkuk chapters one and two as an example. There is no contradiction in God using Satan as His instrument of wrath. Neither does Satan's wrath in the 2nd half of the 70th week (Rev 12:12) cancel out God's wrath. Why would it?

Furthermore, Satan and the Lawless One are used by God as judgment because of rebellion and refusal to love the truth. Paul clearly affirms this in 2 Thess 2:7, 9-12.

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie...

Hence, the Seal Judgments and the Great Tribulation form the trial which will test the world.

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 on the earth. Rev 3:10

This isn't pretrib rapture wishful thinking. There are no hidden clauses in this promise. It doesn't say the church must suffer through Seal Judgments, or the Great Tribulation, before it is finally raptured.

For own their reasons, dedicated critics of pretribulationism strive to enforce provisos and stipulations to the promise of exemption. Perhaps it gives some a sense of moral higher ground.

As for me, I'll take Rev 3:10 at face-value. I want to live every day in anticipation of that shout (1 Thess 4:16-18).

Lord, come quickly!

About Alf Cengia

Last week: Prayer Changes Things



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