Where Does the Bible Teach the Doctrine of the Rapture? – Program 2
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©1994|
|The Bible predicts a time of terrible trouble that will come upon the earth in the future. Do Christians have any hope that they will not have to endure that time?|
The Time of Terrible Trouble
Well, today we are continuing looking at future events. God, in Scripture, brags on the fact that he, being God, is going to make some statements about what will happen in the future that, when they come about, you will know that he is God. I told you yesterday that in the Bible there are some 27% of the Bible is prophecy, half of which have already been fulfilled; half is going to be fulfilled. The half that has already been fulfilled God says, “See, I’m the only God out here. There are no other religions in the world that can make statements about the future and have them come true.”
Now, when we come to what is going to happen in terms of the return of Jesus Christ, people say, “Do you mean that fellow that lived 1900 years ago, the guy that walked in Jerusalem?” Yes. That fellow that walked in Jerusalem by the name of Jesus Christ claimed to be God and said the proof of his being God would not only be his life and what he said, but his death and resurrection. And he arose from the dead—he’s living now. Before he left, he said, “I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” So that fellow Jesus Christ made the astounding claim that he was coming back sometime in the future.
And, of course, those kinds of statements automatically raise the question of when. How will we know that it’s coming close? Is there any way that we will be aware that it could be in the time that we live? And so the Bible gives us information in these areas. And we want to look, and we want to start again where we left off, and that’s in 1 Thessalonians 4.
Let’s just review quickly 1 Thessalonians 4. Here the apostle Paul is writing to a young congregation. He had met with them just for a few weeks of time. They were baby Christians. When he had talked to them about Jesus Christ, he had talked a lot about judgment. They knew about the Day of the Lord, the wrath of God that was going to come on sinful, rebellious people. They also knew about the coming of Jesus Christ and the rapture, the gathering together of believers. They had believed on Jesus and they were looking forward to his returning from heaven to earth. And yet, they, in the process of waiting for Jesus, as Paul left them, being baby Christians, questions arose in their mind: Well, listen, we that are alive when Jesus comes, we’re going to be raptured, we’re going to be snatched away, we are going to be taken up to meet the Lord in the clouds. But the fact is, what happens to those who have already died? Will they be included in that event? And so they had questions about that.
They didn’t have the whole scoop, so Paul, after having sent Timothy to them to minister, Timothy found out the scoop from them that they were bothered, they were confused and they didn’t really know what the scoop was. So they asked Timothy, who asked Paul, who wrote 1 Thessalonians to them to answer their questions. And he says in verse 13: “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep”—those that have died—“that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope; for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again”—the pillars upon which the rapture is based: our belief in Jesus, his death and his resurrection—“if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, them also which sleep”—here’s Paul answering their question—“those which have died in Jesus”—can’t get out of Jesus while you’re living or when you die; you’re in Christ—“will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the Word of the Lord.” This is not something Paul cooked up. This came to him by revelation from the Lord himself—“that we” —underline “we;” Paul includes himself—“we which are alive.” Did Paul look forward to the imminent return of Jesus Christ? Of course he did. “We which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede those which are asleep,” those that have died. In other words, nobody’s left out.
Paul’s answering their question. Here’s the scoop about those that have died. Here’s the one about we who are living. We are both going to be included. Nobody misses out on the rapture. All believers are taken. “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout”—that’s that military command: “Gather up!”—“with the voice of the archangel, with the trump of God.” You know, in the Old Testament every time Israel did anything, they had a little trumpet fanfare. If they had dinner, they had a trumpet fanfare. If they called the troops they had a trumpet fanfare. If they went to the temple they had a fanfare. There was a trumpet sounding for almost every occasion in Israel. This important occasion; there’s a trumpet, the trump of God.
“And the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be harpazo.” Harpazo, that’s the Greek word for what you see in English there. “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up,” Paul says. And that would there literally means “to snatch out” or “to seize.” It’s a very forceful term, if you want. We get the word rape from that word. The Latin is where we get the word rapture. Raptos is the Latin Vulgate rendering of this word, and we get the popular term rapture right here from the Greek word harpazo. It means “to catch up, to forcefully snatch, to gather, to seize.”
And what Paul is saying is, when the Lord gives this shout, He’s going to say, “Gather up!” and all the Christians are going to be forcefully snatched off of planet earth. Hal Lindsey calls it “the great snatch.” But this is where we get the word rapture. “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them”—those that have died before us—“in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” Notice, he comes in the clouds and we are snatched up and we meet him in the air. We don’t meet him in Boston; we don’t meet him on planet earth. We meet him in the air. And then it says, “so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.”
Now, the hope of the Church is that Christ could come at any time. But then, along the line we have Christians that want to know, “Well, when will this event, this rapturing, this being caught up together to meet the Lord,” will it take place before that terrible time of tribulation, that week that Daniel 9, talks about, that seven year period of time that still waits to be fulfilled? Will it happen at the beginning of it so that we won’t go through it? Will it happen in the middle of it so we experience just a little of it? Will it happen just at the end so we experience all of the wrath of God with the rest of the world?
And Paul answers that question, and actually I think that there are five points that we can put down in our mind that will tell us when this event will take place and whether or not we will experience the wrath of God and the tribulation. The first reason I would say that the Church will not go through the tribulation is over in 2 Thessalonians 2. If you were to make it in just one point, it’s the fact that the Thessalonians are worried. They’re worried about something. And let’s get the background here. Paul has just explained to them in 1 Thessalonians about the rapture. He leaves them and he goes away and this is literally just a few days later that he has written, maybe five to six weeks later he writes 2 Thessalonians. And, lo and behold, they’ve got a problem. What’s their problem? He writes to them, “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to him.”
Now, let’s just stop there and define terms, okay? When it says “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to him,” the Greek construction here in the Greek language forces us to conclude that he has just one event in mind. Just one event. It’s not the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, part one, and then “our gathering together,” that’s two. No, it’s a single event that Paul is talking about. And the reason that we have to conclude that, there’s a definite article that ties these both together. But it could read this way: “with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and specifically our gathering together to him.”
When you say the word parousia, the word for coming, you’re talking about a lot of things. There are epochs and times within the coming of Christ. You know that he comes for his Church. He comes with his Church. He comes to judge. He comes to set up his Kingdom. He comes to rule in his Kingdom. And then he establishes the new heaven and the new earth. There are many events that are described in the overall umbrella of the coming of Christ.
So Paul here narrows it down and he says, “I want to talk with you in regards to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and specifically our gathering together to him, the rapture.” I think that’s a perfect description of the rapture, isn’t it? Doesn’t the Lord come and aren’t we gathered together to meet him? And where do we meet him? In the air.
Now, he says, “I want to talk with you Thessalonians about the rapture.” Now, why would he be discussing the rapture? He just got done teaching them about the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4. Well, look what happened. They can’t figure out how they got in the Day of the Lord. They’re not supposed to be there, according to what they understand, but they think for some reason they’re in the Day of the Lord. Notice what they say. He says, “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to him, we ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled.” They were shaken in mind or troubled. It means actually to lose your moorings, to lose your basis. They were unhinged they were so worried. What were they worried about? “that either by spirit or by word or by letter as if from us as though the day of Christ had come.” They thought somehow they had missed the rapture and were in the Day of the Lord.
How in the world did they get that idea? Somebody had come and deceived them. How do we know that? Paul says, “Don’t be troubled either by a spirit”—somebody either said they had a spirit of prophecy—“or by word”—somebody said, “We’ve got a word here”—“or by a letter as if from us.” Somebody came and produced a letter and said, “Look, here’s Paul’s name on it.” And this letter, this word, this spirit, this prophecy said they were in the Day of the Lord. They had been deceived. And he says, “Don’t let anyone deceive you by any means.”
Then look at verse 5. Paul bawls them out and says, “Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I told you about these things?” Paul says, “Look, in 1 Thessalonians I already got done explaining certain things. You know what the events are to be. You’ve got the rapture; then you’ve got the fact of the coming of the lawless one.” And he talks about him in verse 3: “Let no one deceive you by any means, for that day will not come unless the falling away comes first and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.” That day, the Day of the Lord, will not come until, first of all, you’ve got the rapture and then you ought to be able to see the Antichrist on the scene. Do you see the Antichrist on the scene? If you don’t, how in the world can you be in the Day of the Lord?
But here’s what I want you to see. This is proof that Paul said the rapture had to take place before the Day of the Lord, before the tribulation, otherwise they wouldn’t have been worried. Let’s put it the other way. Let’s say that the other folks that are believers who say that Christ will come after the tribulation, that he will come in the middle of the tribulation and let’s say that you believe that you are in the Day of the Lord but the rapture is still coming. Well, why would you be worried then? You’re not going to be worried then. Why would you be worried? You’d only be worried if you thought you had missed it and now you were in it and you were only going to face the wrath of God. So the context of 2 Thessalonians tells me that Paul had taught that the rapture occurs before the tribulation, before the Day of the Lord.
Now let me just explain one more thing. Those of you that have a King James Version, it says in verse 2 that you’re “not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled either by a spirit or by word or by letter as if from us, as though the day of Christ.” Now, in some of the later King James Version they have already switched it over to the Day of the Lord. Some of you might have a little footnote, and you look in the margin it says “the day of the Lord.” The day of Christ is a word that does not appear in the majority of the manuscripts, either the oldest ones that we have, nor in the majority of them. And so this word here, why would they put it in there?
Well, some monks coming down they would think, “Well, what’s the difference between the Day of the Lord and the day of Christ?” The Day of Christ as it’s mentioned in the New Testament always refers to the rapture. Always. So the fact is, when you look at this, just realize that that can throw you off right there, but it is being revised as the different revisions come out on even King James Version.
The first thing I want you to see is that the Thessalonians thought they were in the Day of the Lord. The only reason they were worried is because they thought they had missed the rapture and now they were going to somehow face the wrath of God. So that’s the first reason.
The second reason is this: In John 14:1-2 where Jesus said, “Don’t be worried… believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” Seems to be different from Zechariah 14:4.
If you would turn over to Zechariah 14:4, this differs from John 14:1-2 where Jesus said, “I’m going to come again and receive you unto myself,” and he’s talking about heaven. He said, “I’m going to come again and take you. I’m preparing a place for you and I’m going to take you to the Father’s house.” We get that same thought in 1 Thessalonians where it says, “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we be with him forever.”
Zechariah 14:4 says, let’s go back to verse 2, “I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle,” God says, “and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, the women ravished and half of the city shall go forth into captivity and the residue of the people shall not be cut from the city.” Verse 3, “then shall the Lord go forth and fight against those nations and whom he fought in the day of battle.” Then look at verse 4, “And his feet,” whose feet? The Lord’s feet; the one that’s going forth to battle. “Then his feet shall stand in that day upon” where? “the Mount of Olives.”
Here you have nothing about the fact of Christians being gathered together to him. Here you have nothing about the rapture. All you have is the Lord coming to earth and he puts his feet on the Mount of Olives. In the other passages we are going to be “received unto himself,” and it seems like we’re going to heaven. In 1 Thessalonians 4 we are “caught up together to meet the Lord in the air.” That part of Christ’s second coming is different from this part where he comes and his feet stand on the Mount of Olives.
These passages would suggest, then, there’s got to be a difference, there’s a time that Christ will come for his Church, when he meets them in the air; and then there’ll be a second time that he comes to establish his millennial kingdom, defeat his enemies, and at that time he will descend and his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives. So I think that those passages are proof that we have two phases, if you want, or two events in the coming of Christ: the first where he comes and he catches up his Church and the second, he comes with his Church.
Where does it show that he comes with his Church? Well, take a look at Zechariah 14:5, “and the Lord my God shall come and all the saints with thee.” Somehow we’ve already got there, “all the saints with thee,” alright? So here, when Christ comes to establish his millennial kingdom and to fight and fight for Israel, what do we find? That the saints come with him.
Look at Jude 1:14-15, “Enoch also the seventh from Adam prophesied of these saying, ‘Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints.’”
Revelation 19:14-15, “And the armies which were in heaven”—somehow they got to heaven—“followed him upon the white horses clothed in fine linen, white and clean.”
I believe these passages are teaching, first of all, Christ comes and raptures the Church before the tribulation, before the Day of the Lord. We go into heaven; we are introduced to the Father; we are in those mansions that he’s been preparing for 1900 years; we have the Marriage Supper of the Lamb; and then, seven years later, we come back to earth with Christ when he comes to conquer and rule, to wipe out his enemies, to rescue Israel, to establish his millennial kingdom.
Verse 15: “And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword that with it he should smite the nations. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron. He treadeth down the winepress of the fierceness and the wrath of Almighty God.”
Then, Revelation 17:14, we find again that we’re coming with him. “These shall make war with the Lamb and the Lamb shall overcome them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings and they that are with him are called and chosen and faithful.” The “called, the chosen and the faithful” come with him when he does battle. So I see the fact that the rapture has to take place before the Day of the Lord just because of the context of those verses.
Point three, the Bible teaches that Christians have been delivered from the wrath to come. Where do we find that? Well, turn to 1 Thessalonians 1:10. Here, Paul describes the Thessalonians. He says, “You turned to God from idols.” They were pagans. They were idol worshippers. “And you turned to God from that pagan worship to serve the living and true God,” and then look at what it says, “and to wait for his Son from heaven.” They were waiting for his Son from where? Boston? “From heaven, whom he raised from the dead,” now look at this, underline it, “even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come.
In the context of waiting for Jesus to come from heaven, this has got to be about eschatology, about the last things. This can’t just be about hell. For sure we are saved from hell and from judgment and so on, but the fact is, when he’s talking about Christ’s second coming, we’re also in that context going to be saved from the wrath to come. I don’t see how you can get around that.
That’s not the only verse. Turn over to 1 Thessalonians 5:9. Here, where they were getting a little worried, “will we be in the Day of the Lord,” he says, “No, no, no.” We’ve got two people here, two classes. One, you’ve got those that are in darkness. If you go through the Bible, you find out that those that are sinners, those that are in rebellion against God, are in darkness. They walk in darkness. They need the light of the world, okay? But when you become a Christian, you believe on the Light of the World and you pass from darkness into light. You become in this class of those who are of the light, of the day. This is the theme, both Old Testament and New Testament and Paul picks it up and says, “Look, those that are in the night, the day of the Lord is for those that are in the night. You’re not part of that class. You are part of the day.”
Then he gets down to verse 9: “For God hath not appointed us,” notice that he’s got himself included again. Paul thinks about himself as going. “For God hath not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us, that whether we wake or we have died and we’re sleeping in Christ, we should live together with him, wherefore comfort yourselves together and edify one another, even as also ye do.” Hard to comfort your buddy when you say, “Look, all we’ve got to do is make it through seven years of tribulation and the wrath of God and we’re home free in the rapture.” It just doesn’t follow. And that’s not what Paul says.
So the fact is, these verses tell us that the wrath of God is for those in darkness, those that are unrighteous, those that do not believe in Christ. All Christians are going in the rapture and we are not going to experience the wrath of God.
Let me give you some other background. This theme of wrath, Christians are not appointed to wrath in any shape, form, or manner, okay? Let me give you proof. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation,” no judgment whatsoever, “to them that are in Christ Jesus.” Why? Jesus paid it all. There’s nothing left for you to do. There’s no purgatory. There’s nothing you’ve got to work off. Jesus took the whole load, paid the whole thing. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 5:9: “Much more, then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” When Jesus died on the cross, all condemnation, all judgment, all wrath, we’ve been rescued from that. Not because you’re so good-looking but because Jesus in his grace said, “I desire it to be that way for this class that I love, those that believe on me.”
Romans 2:5. It’s different for those that have not believed on Jesus. “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”
Romans 1:18: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”
Romans 2:8-9 says, “But unto them that are contentious and do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, also of the Gentile.”
But again, Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” and I believe that includes the Day of the Lord and also the tribulation period.
The fourth reason I think that we will not go through the tribulation time is Revelation 3:10. Now, this is a controversial chapter, controversial verse. God is speaking through the apostle John to the Church at Philadelphia and he says this, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour.” If you want, let’s put some numbers here, okay? Number one, “I will keep thee from the hour,” that’s number one. Number two: “of temptation,” or some of you have “of tribulation” or “of trial.” Number three: “which shall come upon all the world.” That’s number three. It’ll come upon “all the world.” Number four: “to try them that dwell upon the earth.” This hour of temptation is not a local deal. Get down to number three there. It is coming upon the whole world. So this applies not only to the Church at Philadelphia but to all the churches in all the world. As Revelation 2:29 says, “what the Spirit saith he saith unto the churches,” plural. So, all the churches. Now, so it’s coming upon the whole world.
What is this hour of temptation? What is it? Where did John get the information about it? Well, I believe this is the tribulation time period, and let me just give you a few verses.
Daniel 12:1 says, “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people, and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one of them shall be found written in the book.” God’s going to come back and rescue them.
Joel 2:30- 31: “I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth blood and fire and pillars of smoke.” Do you remember in the Gulf War when all of those oil wells were flaming and the smoke was billowing? I think it’ll be something like that. It’s going to happen in the Middle East. And that was just a part of the Middle East. You know, in Saudi Arabia, the reason you can find oil there, basically in some parts underneath the sand the oil is two feet under the sand, if you had enough power, you get a big football player and you take a pipe and he jams it into the sand, oil starts coming up out of that pipe. Think if a bomb hit that area. Think of the oil smoke that could cover the world. “The sun shall be turned into darkness, the moon into blood before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.” Daniel knew about it; Joel knew about it, the Old Testament prophets talked about it constantly.
In Mark Jesus picked up on it. Mark 13:19-20: “For in those days there will be tribulation such as has not been from the beginning of creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be. And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved. But for the elect’s sake whom he chose he shortened the days.” There’s a group in the Church that say this applied to Jerusalem. Folks, what happened in Jerusalem was terrible. And there were probably a million Jews that were slaughtered in 70 AD, but that doesn’t compare to the Holocaust where they lost six million. That doesn’t even come close to what’s happened in our World Wars and it certainly is not what God is talking about that’s still up ahead.
This hour of trial or temptation which shall come upon all the world that both Jesus and the Prophets warned us about is also going to come on that number four there, “them that dwell upon the earth.” This will not come upon Christians. How do I know that? Well, the Greek word here is just not oikeo, earth dwellers, but katoikeo, those who have settled down upon the earth. It means those who have identified themselves with the world. In other words, they have gone hook, line and sinker, they are part of the world. The word conveys the idea of permanency, complete identification with the world.
This cannot be the Church. Why? Because Scripture refers to the Church as strangers and pilgrims upon the earth. Hebrews 11:13: “These are died in Christ having faith not having received the promises but having seen them afar off and they were assured of them, they embraced them and they confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. They desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God for He has prepared a city for them.”
Philippians 3:20 says, “For our citizenship is in heaven from which we also eagerly await for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform our lowly bodies that it may be conformed to his glorious body according to the workings of which he is able to even subdue all things to himself.” So the fact is, it’s not talking about Christians here, but it’s talking about earth dwellers, those who have identified themselves with the world system.
In fact, there are seven places that this word is used in the book of Revelation and every single time it refers to the unsaved, never once does it refer to the saved. I’ll give them to you. Revelation 6:10. Listen to the context: “And they cried with a loud voice saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood’”—talking about the Christians that have been martyred—“on those who [the earth dwellers] dwell on the earth.” Those ones who killed them, Revelation 6:10.
Revelation 8:13: “And I looked and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven saying with a loud voice, ‘Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth.’” The inhabitants of the earth are the earth dwellers. Because of the remaining blasts of the trumpets of the three angels who are about to sound. Here the wrath of God is just about ready to fall on them.
Revelation 11:10: “And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and send gifts to one another because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.” Here we have it twice. Who’s the one that torments them? Here we have the prophets that have come and they’re glad to see the prophets finally get knocked off by the Antichrist and they’re glad to see it. Why? Because what they’ve been saying has been tormenting them. They hate them. They hate God’s words.
Revelation 12:12: “Therefore, rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth”—these earth dwellers—“and the sea, for the devil has come down to you, having great wrath because he knows that he has a short time.” They’re part of the devil’s crowd.
Revelation 13:8: “All who dwell on the earth will worship him.” Here’s the earth dwellers. They’re going to fall hook, line and sinker for the Antichrist’s line and they’ll worship him.
Revelation 13:12: “He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence and causes the earth and those who are the earth dwellers, those who dwell in it, to worship the first beast, the ungodly.”
Revelation 13:4: “He deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who are the earth dwellers, who dwell on the earth, to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.” They were the ungodly.
Revelation 3:10 is where we’re at: “Because you have kept my command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which will come upon the whole earth to test those who are the earth dwellers.” This is not talking about Christians. So the earth dwellers are the ungodly; it’s not talking about the Christians. Why? Because he says, “I will keep thee from the hour of temptation.” “I will keep thee.”
Now, when God says, “I will keep thee from the hour of temptation,” what does this mean? Does it mean that Christians are going to be kept “through” or “in” the tribulation? Or does it mean Christians are kept “from” the tribulation itself? What it means is, look at what it says: I will keep you not just from the trial or from the temptation, but “I will keep you from the hour,” I will keep you from the period of time that encompasses the trial or the temptation. Christians are exempt from this.
Now, take a look at John 17:15 for the only other spot in the New Testament where this “kept from” word is actually used. Interestingly enough, the apostle John uses it both times: once here, Revelation 3:10, and the other one in John 17:15: tereo ek, “kept from.”
And those who do not believe that Christ will come and gather the Church before the tribulation point to John 17:15 as proof that we are going to go through the tribulation and not be snatched before it takes place and let me show you why. Over here in John 17:15, Jesus said, “I do not pray that you should take them out of the world but that you should” tereo ek,” “that you should keep them from the evil one.” Now, those who believe that we are going through the tribulation say, You see, this verse says “to keep them from the evil one.” That does not mean to be removed from his presence but simply to be kept from his harmful power; therefore, the Church universal will experience preservation from harm in the trial, in the tribulation, and we will not be raptured until the end of that period. Follow?
There are three reasons why I object to that interpretation in terms of Revelation 3:10. It’s true that Jesus doesn’t take us away from Satan and he does preserve us there in John 17:15, but there are three reasons why that can’t be the interpretation in Revelation 3:10. Why? Because the hour of trial is a judgment from God on the unbelieving inhabitants of the world. Remember, God has not appointed us to wrath. And the verse says he’s going to keep us from the hour of trial which is coming upon, not the Christians because the Christians don’t get wrath. There’s no condemnation unto us who believe in Christ. But the fact is, it’s coming on the earth dwellers. The very context says it’s coming on those that are unsaved, not the Christians.
Number two: in the gospel of John preservation is from the devil and his harmful power; but in Revelation 3 the preservation is from a time period. A time period. What are we preserved from? This time period. What is it? The tribulation, the hour of trial. How can you be exempt from and preserved from a time period? It would mean you’re not in that time period, you’re not going to experience that time period. How in the world will the Christians escape that time period which is coming upon the whole world? We’ll be raptured out of here. That’s how you are taken care of in that area.
Number three: it’s false biblically to say that the saints of the tribulation period are exempt from harm. Remember, they’re saying, “Look, this means, like John 17, that the Christians are going through the tribulation and God will preserve them in the tribulation.” That’s what they’re saying. But is that true? No. The Bible says people that are saints in the tribulation period, that believe in Jesus Christ, what’s going to happen to them? They’re going to be slaughtered by the millions.
Take a look at Revelation 6:9-11: “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth”—these earth dwellers—“and a white robe was given to each of them and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer”—now listen —“until both the number of their fellow servants”—their fellow Christians—“and their brethren who would be killed as they were was completed.” God says, “You were killed and there’s a ton of you that have been killed and you want me to avenge and I’m going to avenge but not yet; and there’s going to be some more killed.” So Christians aren’t preserved during the tribulation. That can’t be the interpretation.
Revelation 7:9-14: “After these things I looked and behold a great multitude which no one could number of all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues standing before the throne and before the Lamb clothed with white robes with palm branches in their hands and crying out with a loud voice saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb’ and all the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures and they fell on their faces before the throne and they worshipped God. Then one of the elders answered saying to me, ‘Who are these arrayed in white robes?’” —where do they come from? —“And I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ So he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’”
So, for those three reasons I think that Revelation 3:10, I will keep you from the hour of temptation, the hour of trial. He’s going to snatch us out of the world. As Paul says: we haven’t been destined to experience the wrath of God.
And the fifth reason is this: the Church is not mentioned as being on earth during the tribulation chapters of Revelation. Let me give you an example. Nineteen different times you’ll find the Church mentioned in the first three chapters of the book of Revelation. But then in Revelation 4 the apostle John hears a voice from heaven saying, “Come up here and I will show you what must take place after these things.” Then after that verse where John is taken up, chapter 4, verse 1, from that point all the way to chapter 19, the tribulation chapters of the book of Revelation, the Church vanishes. The Church is not mentioned once in the earthly scenes. Now, why is it? Why is it that the Church is nowhere mentioned on earth during the tribulation chapters if we are to go through the tribulation? Don’t you think it would be kind of important if we’re supposed to go through it that it would at least mention us?
Another question is, in Revelation 2 and 3 seven different times there is a specific phrase that the apostle John repeats. The phrase is this, you can look it up, chapter 2 and chapter 3, seven different times you’ll find it: “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says” to whom? “to the Churches.” This exact sequence is repeated seven different times there, and every single time the word “to the churches” is included.
Now, this same order of words is used in the tribulation chapter. Take a look at chapter 13. But I want you to notice how it’s written. Revelation 13:9-10. Remember in Revelation 2 and 3, “he who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Here it says, “if anyone has an ear, let him hear.” It doesn’t say, “what the Spirit says to the churches.” It just says, “If anybody’s got an ear, let him here.” The exact same words, the exact same sequence. He used it seven times in chapter 2 and chapter 3. Why is it that he didn’t include the churches here? Because the Church is not who he was addressing; the Church is not on earth. The Church has been raptured and does not go through the tribulation.
Those are five reasons why I think that we will not, according to the Bible, as Christians, experience the wrath of God, the Day of the Lord, but that Christ will come. He could come at any moment. There are no signs that precede him. Paul was anticipating that he would be a part of that group. The Thessalonians were looking for Christ to come from heaven. Jesus said, “I will come again and receive you unto myself.” You put all that together and I believe that Christ’s coming is imminent, it is near, and that the Christians will be spared from the Day of the Lord.