Dr. Jeffrey Townsend: Revelation 3:10  

  Written by: Dr. Jeffrey Townsend
Conference: 1992 Pre-Trib Study Group
The Rapture in Revelation 3:10

Townsend: Why is Revelation 3:10 such a hotly contested passage between pretribulationists and non-pretribulationists? It is important since it is a text claimed by pretribulationists to teach that the church will be kept out of the Tribulation. Jeffrey Townsend has written perhaps the best study ever done in defense of the pretribulational understanding of this key passage. He demonstrates from the Greek New Testament that the church will be removed before the seventieth week of Daniel begins.<

An alternate interpretation of this passage can be found at REVELATION 3:10.
It deals with the prepositional phrase, the meaning of the verb and the time period called “the hour of testing.”

Townsend: Revelation3:10 may then be paraphrased, "Because you have held fast the word which tells of My perseverance, I also will preserve you in a position outside the hour of testing" (NASB). This paraphrase points up an important nuance of meaning that must be recognized. Tired ek in Revelation 3:10 does not describe the rapture as such. Instead, it describes the position and status of the church during the hour of testing. It describes the results of the rapture, not the rapture itself. Revelation 3:10 does not state directly how the church will be preserved outside the hour of testing. However, the remainder of the verse indicates that the proper logical deduction is preservation by means of a pretribulational rapture of the church.<

This is based on an assumption that “the hour of testing” refers to the tribulation. Such an identification cannot be proven. As is typical with most commentators, they have failed to properly define terms.
The tribulation is not the same as Daniel’s 70th week.
The tribulation is not a time of God’s wrath.
The tribulation is not a time of TESTING on the unbelievers. It is a time of persecution on
Israel and Christians. It is the time period known as the Day of the Lord, that begins after the 6th seal of Revelation 6, that is a time of testing on the unbelievers.


The Meaning of "The Hour of Testing"

The Meaning of "The Hour"

Townsend: The object of the preposition ek in Revelation 3:10 is "the hour of testing" (ts ras tou peirasmou). The preservation promised the Philadelphians is in relation to a specific period of time. This is indicated by the inclusion of ts as an article of previous reference. Jesus is speaking of the well-known hour of testing, which is a reference to the expected time of trouble, the Tribulation period, before the return of Messiah (Deut. 4:26-31;Isa. 13:6-13; 17:4-11; Jer. 30:4-11; Ezek. 20:33-38; Dan. 9:27; 12:1; Zech.14:1-4; Matt. 24:9-31).This period is graphically portrayed in Revelation 6-18 (cf. "the great tribulation," 7:14; and "the hour of His judgment," 14:7).<

Yes. But the hour of His judgment is NOT the tribulation. It is the Day of the Lord, which will begin AFTER the tribulation.
The normal understanding of the passage is that there will be a group of believers who will be delivered from a time of trial that will come upon a different group of people called the earth dwellers.

We know that the church will remain on the earth into the 70th week and indeed, into the second half of the week, as a fully functional representative of God to the earth dwellers. During the time of the tribulation, which begins at the midpoint of the week, the church will come under the persecution oppression of the beast, and many will be martyred and forced into secrecy. There is no promise of deliverance from the persecution pressure of the tribulation.
Yes, the church will be delivered from those persecutions, when Jesus returns at the Day of the Lord, which is represented by the 6th seal at Revelation 6:12-17. But this deliverance FROM THE BEAST is not the promise that is presented at Rev. 3:10.

Furthermore, the time of persecution from the beast, which is called the tribulation, is not a time of trial for the unbelievers. The tribulation is a time of trial and testing for believers, but the HOUR OF TRIAL is NOT something that is coming upon believers, but very clearly, upon the unbelieving EARTH DWELLERS. The hour of trial then, is a time for unbelievers to face the issues of Messiah worship vs. beast worship. And the things that challenge them are the many judgments that come from God’s wrath after the rapture of the church.

Townsend: In relation to the rapture question, it is significant that the Philadelphian church is here promised preservation outside the time period of the Tribulation. The combination (ek ts ras) thwarts the posttribulation view of the church being kept from trials while on earth during the hour of testing. As Thiessen notes, the promise "holds out exemption from the period of trial, not only from the trial during that period." Ryrie comments, "It is impossible to conceive of being in the location where something is happening and being exempt from the time of the happening." <

When the hour of testing is properly defined, there is no dispute about the meaning being that the church will be removed out from, as in removal before it begins.

Townsend: Third, Gundry notes that in Jeremiah 30:7 (LXX, 37:7) Israel is given a similar promise of being saved from (sz apo with apo in the Septuagint) the "time of Jacob's trouble" (cf. "hour of testing"). Even though apo denotes separation more strongly than ek, Israel is preserved within the time of trouble not outside it. Gundry concludes his argument by stating, "If a pretribulational rapture was not or will not be required for deliverance from the time of Jacob's distress, neither will a pretribulational rapture be required for preservation from the hour of testing." [43]

This appears to be a strong argument until one considers the context of Jeremiah30:7. Jeremiah 30:5-6 indicates that the nation is already in the great day of trouble when salvation comes. This is confirmed in Matthew 24, where the Jews are told to flee the persecution of the one who desecrates the temple, and in Revelation 12, where the dragon persecutes the woman and her offspring. From this trouble, the nation is promised rescue in Jeremiah 30:7. Thus the promises are different and not comparable. Israelis promised rescue within the time of trouble, the church is promised preservation from the hour of testing. Only the latter case demands rapture from earth to heaven.<

First: Matthew 24 is NOT telling the Jews to flee. It is telling PEOPLE who are in Judea to flee. And the ones who are addressed are the ones who would be reading and learning the teachings of Jesus. That would be the believers of the church.
Second: the Jews who are rescued from the time of Jacob’s distress are not believers, but members of the nation of Israel. And their deliverance is not IMMEDIATE, but BECAUSE of the return of the Lord. For through the Day of the Lord judgments, the beast will become neutralized and ultimately destroyed, and “all
Israel will be saved.”

The Scope of "The Hour"

Townsend: The qualifying phrase, "which is about to come upon the whole inhabited earth," further describes the hour as imminent and worldwide in its impact. Ts mellouses erchesthai goes beyond conveying future tense. It carries a note of imminency, as indicated by erchomai tachu, which begins Revelation3:11. Both the coming of the hour and the coming of the Lord are imminent. This connection indicates a relationship between the promise of "keeping" in 3:10 and the coming of the Lord in 3:11. There will be preservation outside the imminent hour of testing for the Philadelphian church when the Lord comes. This, in turn, indicates that although tre ek in 3:10 does not refer directly to the rapture of the church, rapture as the means of preservation is a proper deduction from the context.<

The coming of the Lord and the arrival of the hour of testing is only imminent within the context of what has been taught by Jesus and Paul.
(1) Jesus taught that He would come only AFTER the signs of the season in Matthew 24. That is, only after the tribulation, and after that tribulation has been cut short by the sovereign decree of God the Father.
(2) Paul taught that Jesus would give the Christians rest (rescue) from the tribulation (thlipsis) type persecution, “at the revelation of our Lord Jesus from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire.”
2Thes. 1:6-7.

Townsend: "The whole inhabited earth" will be overtaken by this hour (cf. Rev. 2:10,where local persecution is in view). Since the church is to be preserved outside a period of time that encompasses the whole world, preservation by a pretribulation rapture is again seen to be a logical inference from the context. Only a rapture to heaven removes the church from the earth and its time continuum.<

Of course. But it is deliverance out from the earth before the Day of the Lord judgments begin, by the return of the Lord after the tribulation of those days.

Townsend: The Purpose of "The Hour"

"To test those who dwell upon the earth" gives the purpose of the coming hour. In both secular and biblical Greek peirazd has the root idea of a test that is applied in order to expose the true character of someone.[46]Usually peirazdo denotes negative intent: to test in order to break down, to demonstrate failure.[47] Hence the hour of testing will come on the whole world, with the specific purpose of putting earth-dwellers to the test, which will demonstrate their utter failure before God. In other words, the Tribulation period will provide condemning evidence for the judgments the Lord will carry out when He returns to the earth (cf. Matt. 25; Rev. 19:19-21;20:4).


The time of persecution from the beast, which is called the tribulation, is not a time of trial for the unbelievers. The tribulation is a time of trial and testing for believers, but the HOUR OF TRIAL is NOT something that is coming upon believers, but very clearly, upon the unbelieving EARTH DWELLERS. The hour of trial then, is a time for unbelievers to face the issues of Messiah worship vs. beast worship. And the things that challenge them are the many judgments that come from God’s wrath after the rapture of the church, which will occur at the 6th seal.

Townsend: According to Johnson, tous katoikountas epi ts ges corresponds to the Hebrew idiorn-yothey haref which, in Isaiah 24:1,5,6; 26:9, becomes a technical term for people on the earth during the time of Jacob's trouble.[48] The term is not all-inclusive, since in each of its seven other uses in Revelation the reference is to unbelievers, and both pretribulationists and posttribulationists agree that there will be many saints in the Tribulation period. The question is whether these saints are the preserved church (which is unlikely since many are martyred), or people who come to salvation during the Tribulation and are martyred for their faith. In Revelation 13:8 and 17:8 an earth-dweller is further defined as one "whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world." These are the non-elect of the Tribulation period, and as a result they worship the beast (cf. Rev. 13:8,14). On these earth-dwellers will come judgments that have the purpose of openly demonstrating their absolute and utter depravity (cf. Rev.6:15-17; 9:20-21; 16:21). McClain notes, "In that hour the physical judgments will generally fall upon saved and unsaved alike."[49]But the special objects of testing and wrath will be the earth-dwellers.<

Martyrdom has nothing to do with whether there are church age believes on the earth AT ANY TIME.
There have always been martyrs throughout history and there will continue to be martyrs, both from among church age believers DURING the tribulation and from among post-rapture believers after the 6th seal return of the Lord.

Townsend: Although Revelation 3:10 describes the result of the rapture (i.e., the position and status of the church during the Tribulation), and not the rapture itself, the details of the hour of testing just mentioned establish the pretribulation rapture as the most logical deduction from this verse. The promise of preservation is from a period of time that will envelop the whole world. Only a pretribulation rapture would remove the church completely from the earth and its time continuum. Thus the pretribulation rapture is found to be a proper logical deduction from the data found in Revelation 3:10.<

It is NOT only a pretrib rapture that fulfills this passage. It is a PRE day-of-the-Lord wrath that fulfills this passage. And it fulfills it more consistently than the assumptions of the pretrib position.
As already indicated, a more detailed analysis of this passage is at REVELATION 3:10


Questions and comments are always welcome

Return to BIBLE FRAGRANCES index



©Ron Wallace, http://www.biblefragrances.com. Anyone is free to reproduce this material and distribute it,
but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's consent.


Home | Recent Additions | Studies | Commentary


Prophecy | Articles | Topical | About Us