One of the most well-known verses in the Rapture debate is Revelation 3:10. This verse says, “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.”
The “hour of trial” that will “come upon the whole world” is believed to be the Great Tribulation. The issue with this verse has to do with the phrase “keep you from.” Those who believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture believe that this means that Christ will keep us from the trials by removing (i.e., rapturing) us from the earth. This verse is so popular among pre-tribbers that Tim LaHaye, the co-author of the Left Behind series, says, “It seems difficult to understand why some false teachers suggest that the Church must go through the Tribulation in view of this clear-cut statement of our Lord to ‘keep you’ (in this case us) out of ‘the hour of trial’…”
Their argument goes like this: The Lord promises to “keep” the church “from” the time of testing. Popular pre-tribber Mark Hitchcock notes, “The words keep from are the English translation of the Greek words tereo ek.” Tereo means “keep, preserve, protect” while Ek means “out of, out from within.”
The Lord also promises to keep his people from “the hour of testing.” “This phrasing,” according to Hitchcock, “strongly supports the pre-Trib notion of removal before the Tribulation, not the post-Trib claim of protection through it.”
The way pre-tribbers make their argument is that the verse cannot, under any circumstances, have any other kind of meaning. They even look at those who disagree as “false teachers.” That is some pretty strong language, and it is one that I disagree with. Throughout the rest of this article, I will show that Revelation 3:10 does not have to bear a pre-trib meaning.
Protection during the Tribulation
Christians who believe that the rapture takes place after the Tribulation interpret Revelation 3:10 in a different way. For them, the verse takes on a meaning of “spiritual protection” or “preserving” throughout the Tribulation. Christ will guard Christians spiritually, not necessarily physically, during the Tribulation. Christians will not fall prey to the spiritual deception of the Antichrist and False Prophet.
Is there anything to support this conclusion? First, we have John 17:15. In this verse, Jesus says, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” It is significant that this verse is the only other time in Scripture where ek and tereo are used together. Interestingly, they do not have the meaning of removing Christians from the earth, but instead of protecting them from Satan. If the Greek has the meaning here, then it could have the same meaning in Revelation 3:10. There are other arguments that support this conclusion:
- Whenever tereo (“keep, preserve, protect”) is used in the same context with a dangerous situation it will often bear the meaning of “to guard.” This is, of course, significant since the Tribulation is in view and Christ would be guarding Christians spiritually.
- It is also important to note that “the preceding letters [in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation] have focused only on spiritual perseverance, even at the cost of one’s physical life (e.g., 2:8-11; 2:13).” This gives us a context that supports Revelation 3:10 as teaching spiritual, and not physical, protection.
- “Christ promises Smyrna [eternity] if they will endure sufferings and even physical death. Paul repeats the same theme throughout his letters (e.g., Rom. 8:35-39; 2 Cor. 4:16-5:10; 6:4-10; Phil. 3:10-11; Col. 1:24), as do other NT writers (e.g., 1 Pet. 2:18-23; 4).” The Smyrnaian Believers were promised spiritual protection even though some may die.
- Christians “are called to imitate [Christ’s] example of perseverance through the latter-day period of trial until he returns again (e.g., 1 Pet. 2:21; 4:1).”
Scholar G.K. Beale says, “They are not preserved from trial by removal from it, but their faith is preserved through trial because they have been sealed by God.” He continues, “Accordingly, the following interpretative rendering is best here: ‘I will keep you safe from the spiritual harm of the coming tribulation period.’”
Now I want to make something clear. I agree that tereo and ek can very well carry the meaning of removing Christians from the earth before the Tribulation. However, the main point that I want to make is that the language in Revelation 3:10 can also have the meaning of protection throughout the period of trial. It does not at all require removal.
Even John Walvoord, a well-known pre-trib believer, notes that other meanings are possible. He believes in a pre-trib rapture not because of the Revelation 3:10, but for other reasons. And that is another thing I want to note. Christians approach this verse in a way that fits in with what they already believe about the rapture. This verse does not clearly teach the timing of the event, and in fact, if the idea of protection is correct it has nothing to do with the rapture at all.
It is also worth noting that if the interpretation of removing Christians is correct, it does not automatically prove a pre-trib rapture. The idea of removal can also fit very well with mid-trib and pre-wrath positions.
Of course, there are objections that Pre-tribbers have against this view. Hitchcock gives one when he says, “But if the Lord had meant that believers would be kept ‘through’ the Tribulation, He would have used the Greek preposition dia, which carries this clear meaning.” He makes an interesting point, but his argument can be turned on itself.
If John meant for Christians to be removed before the Tribulation, he could have easily used Greek prepositions that clearly have the meaning of removal used. For example, there is airo which has the meaning of “to lift, raise up, or remove.” Is it not possible that if John meant for the rapture to remove Christians before the Tribulation in this verse, then he would have used this word?
A second objection deals with John 17:15, which is seen as support for a pre-trib rapture. Hitchcock says, “It doesn’t make sense for God to keep His people through Satan – the evil one; he keeps us from him.” Paul Feinberg interprets it similarly when he says, “Just as the disciples were not in the Evil One, so the Philadelphians would not be in the hour of testing.”
I disagree with this. The context of John 17:15 does not teach a removal of Christians from the earth, but spiritual protection from Satan. This is how God “keeps” or guards” them. To not be in the Evil One does not require a removal out of this world.
Third, pre-tribbers believe that removal is possible because the trial in this verse is punishment on unbelievers, not evil coming from the devil. In response, Beale notes that the tribulation from the devil comes from God (6:1ff and the divine passive “give” in 6:1ff and in chapter 13; 2:10 as well). “In addition, it is evident that the same trials that punish unbelievers serve as tests to strengthen the faith of God’s people (e.g., see on 6:3-8).”
Fourth, in John 17:15, “the protection is from a personal, evil force (‘from the evil one’), whereas in Rev. 3:10 the protection is from a period (‘from the hour of trial’) during which severe calamities fall on the world.” In response, both Revelation 3:10 and John 17:15 “speak of protection from the falling away from the faith, that is, protection from trials that induce unbelief.” “Indeed, the affinity of the John 17 text with that of Rev. 3:10 is enhanced by the fact that the protection ‘from the evil one’ is also identified three times with the ‘hour’…of the testing of Jesus’ followers (16:2, 4, 32), mention of which is directly followed by Christ’s encouragement that they can ‘have peace’ in him in the midst of the world’s tribulation because he has ‘overcome the world’ (16:33).”
Revelation 3:10 is not proof of a pre-trib rapture. The verse simply does not teach the timing of the highly anticipated event.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.
 Tim LaHaye. Revelation Unveiled (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999). 81; David Hocking. “The Rapture in Revelation.” 3 (PDF version). http://pre-trib.org/articles/view/rapture-in-revelation; G.K. Beale. The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999). 290 (although he does mention it could also refer to a trial “in Asia Minor or the limited known world of that time”); Robert Mounce. The Book of Revelation Revised (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997). 103; Grant Osbourne. Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002). 193.
 Mark Hitchcock. The End (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2012). 158-159; LaHaye, 81; John Walvoord. The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody, 1989). 87.
 LaHaye, 81.
 Hitchcock, 158.
 Hitchcock, 158. Walvoord, 87. Hocking, 2.
 Hitchcock, 158.
 Beale, 289; Osbourne, 192-194; Robert Gundry. The Church and the Tribulation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973). 55. Mounce, 103.
 Beale, 290-291; Craig S. Keener. The Gospel of John: A Commentary Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003). 1059-1060. Stanley J. Grenz. The Millennial Maze (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1992. 114; Mounce, 103; Osbourne, 193-194; Gundry, 57.
 Millard J. Erickson. Christian Theology 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998). 1228. Gundry, 58.
 Beale, 291.
 Ibid., 292.
 Ibid. It is even possible that Revelation 3:10 is alluding to Daniel 12:1, 10 (LXX) since “that hour” is described as “that day of tribulation” when “many are tested and sanctified and sinners sin.” “This suggests that the ‘testing’ in Rev. 3:10 has the double effect of purifying and strengthening believers and of divine punishment of others.” (Beale, 292)
 Walvoord, 87.
 Alan Kurschner. Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord (Pompton Lakes: Eschatos, 2013). 225-226. Kindle Edition. Kurschner says about Revelation 3:10, “Prewrath also affirms that the rapture will happen before the day of the Lord. The hour of testing as the day of the Lord’s wrath only proves that the church will not experience this wrath (cf. 1 Thess. 5: 9). Revelation 3: 10 does not address the fundamental question of when the day of the Lord begins. The verse only gives a promise of a particular protection. As for when God’s wrath begins, we must look elsewhere in Scripture. Therefore, this verse is moot on the rapture question.”
 Hitchcock, 158.
 Erickson, 1228. Gundry (55, 57-58) also notes that there were other Greek prepositions that could have been used to denote removal, but none of them are used.
 Hitchcock, 158.
 Paul Feinberg, “The Case for the Pretribulation Rapture Position,” p. 68. Quoted in Grenz, 114.
 Beale, 291.
 One final point is that Hitchcock (p. 159) argues that Revelation 3:11 supports a pre-trib argument because Jesus says he is coming quickly. However, this argument deals more with the imminent return of Christ, which is a completely different argument than the one discussed in this article. I will examine the imminent return of Jesus in another article.