Revelation 3

When I was an intern at my home church, the staff decided to play a prank on the worship pastor. We staged the rapture (the time Jesus takes his church out of the world).  So we all brought at extra pair or clothing to work that day. During our staff meeting, the worship pastor had to take an “important” call. While he was out of the room, we quickly put our spare clothing on the chairs around the table and then piled into the senior pastor's office where we peeked through the glass in the door. The worship pastor walked back into the room and then quickly darted out! We couldn't contain ourselves! We flooded the hallway laughing and accusing the worship pastor of being terrified (which he vehemently denied). Not bad for a bunch of Presbyterians!

One of the hot topics in the book of Revelation is the nature of the rapture of the church.

And one of the passages often cited to support a pre-tribulation rapture is Revelation 3:10. 

NIV Revelation 3:10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep 
you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who 
live on the earth.

On the face of it, it sounds like Jesus is promising to take this church away from a period of intense suffering. But let's examine the evidence.

The “hour of trial” can mean the trials that come before the end of the world as in 9:15 or 17:12. Or it can refer to the hour of Jesus' return as in 3:3, 14:7, 15. It certainly doesn't make sense to interpret “hour” as sixty minutes (which would be a quick trial), but as a certain kind of time that is limited in its duration.  

The “keep from” phrase occurs twice in the New Testament: once in Revelation and once in Jesus' ministry. Jesus says, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect (keep) them from the evil one.” (John 17:15) It is also interesting to note that history says the Philadelphian church continued to be persecuted.

With those things in mind, it seems best to interpret this verse as a prophecy about an intense time of tribulation on the earth, but that Jesus will preserve faithful believers during this evil time.  One might call to mind the biblical account of God preserving his people Israel during the plagues on Egypt.  His people were not the target of that tribulation, and he did indeed lead them through that time of suffering into the great Exodus. 

Sometimes I get concerned that American Christians are not expecting to go through trials.  So when the “hour of trial” comes, they count on escaping it in the rapture.  This could tempt the church to believe that we should not suffer for our faith.  But here we have an amazing promise about Jesus' “keeping power” flowing through our lives. We would do well to stay alert for Christ’s return (what a day that will be!) all the while expecting to endure suffering for our faith.  We will encounter evil and pain in this life, but we can rest assured that Jesus will keep us through these things.  As we wait for his arrival, we are never alone!