What is the purpose of the “hour of trial”?

By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©1996
Bible Prophecy Questions Answered by Leading Christian Scholars.


What is the purpose of the “hour of trial”?

Dr. John Ankerberg: This test will come on all of the earth to see what kind of people they are. The Bible says some will repent and believe, and others will reject God, blaspheme His name and be damned. For example, Revelation 6:9 and 11 says, “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God.” They had heard the Gospel. “And the testimony they had maintained.” They had persevered. Each of them was given a white robe and they were told to wait a little longer until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed. Here, these Christians had repented and believed and were living faithfully—but they were martyred. They weren’t protected.
Look at Revelation 7:14. There it tells us, “These are the ones who came who came out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Notice, they died during the Great Tribulation, which would be at least the last three and a half years of the seven-year period of Daniel’s Seventieth Week. The words, “they who came out of the great tribulation” is a translation of a present tense participle. A. T. Robertson, the Greek scholar, says, “This participle leads to the idea of continued repetition,” that is, the people of the great multitude who were coming out of the great tribulation, were doing so individually, one by one. They were continuously doing so through death, mainly death by martyrdom.

So, again, in Revelation 7:14 the believing saints who are martyred are still arriving. It hardly seems from these verses that the saints during the Tribulation time period are being protected by God from the hour of trial. But this hour of trial or testing comes to reveal the kind of people that fall under the judgment of God. Those who do not repent—and they’ll have every chance to do so—will be brought into judgment. Revelation 9:20 is just one of many places where this is stated: “The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues [judgments] still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshipping demons and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood; idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality, their thefts.”

When the two witnesses that God sends to preach the Gospel to the inhabitants of the earth are killed, the earth dwellers gloat over them and actually celebrate by sending each other gifts. It almost becomes a holiday for them. Why? Because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth. In the fourth bowl judgment the Bible says the people on earth were “seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God who had control over these plagues.” In other words, they realized these plagues had come from God; but they refused to repent and glorify Him. The fifth bowl judgment, “Men gnawed their tongues in agony, but they cursed the God of heaven because of their pain and their sores. But they refused to repent of what they had done.”

Let me say something else about these earth dwellers mentioned in Revelation 3:10. Remember it says, “I will keep thee from the hour of trial which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth,” the earth dwellers. The Greek word here is not just oikeo, a resident or dweller, but katoikeo, those who have permanently identified themselves with the world and settled down upon the earth. This phrase, “those who live upon the earth,” the earth dwellers, is repeated seven times in the Book of Revelation. Never once does “earth dwellers” refer to believers; it always refers to unbelievers. These people hate God, are unrepentant and are persecutors against the saints. For example, in Revelation 6:10 the earth dwellers are the persecutors against whom the martyrs plead for vengeance. In Revelation 8:13 an angel pronounces a threefold woe upon the earth dwellers, which will come on them during the last three trumpet judgments. In Revelation 11:10 the earth dwellers are those who gloat over the death of the two witnesses who preach the Gospel. In Revelation 13:8 the earth dwellers worship the beast, the Antichrist. In Revelation 13:14 the earth dwellers are deceived by the Antichrist and make an image of him to worship. In Revelation 17:8 they gaze in wonder at the beast; and in Revelation 13:8 and 17:8 the Bible states categorically that these earth dwellers are people “whose names have not been written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world.”

So the earth dwellers are unsaved people who will never repent. That’s why the hour of trial is going to come upon the whole world: to test the earth dwellers, that is, those who live on the earth. The Greek words indicate through this test and through the judgments of the Tribulation time period God will reveal that these people deserve His eternal judgment. For example, in Revelation 6:12-15, when God causes the cosmic disturbances of the sixth seal, the earth dwellers are said to be terrified. They recognize that these judgments are the expressions of God’s wrath. But instead of repenting and believing in God, the Bible says, “Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of their wrath has come and who can stand?’” Again, instead of repenting, they called for the mountains and rocks to fall on them, to hide them from God.

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