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Enjoying God Blog


In light of recent events in Israel, I was asked to address the question of the timing of the rapture. Let me say up front that I don’t believe there is any clear connection between what is happening in Israel and Gaza and the return of Christ. That said, here is a section from my book, Kingdom Come, that focuses on the primary text to which many appeal in defense of a pretribulation translation of all living saints.

In defense of their doctrine, pretribulationists often point to the words Jesus spoke to the local church in the city of ancient Philadelphia: “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown” (Rev. 3:10-11).

The pretribulational interpretation is that “the hour of trial” refers to a future seven-year period of intense persecution, during which the judgments of God are poured out on the earth. The promise to the church is that God will “keep from” this hour all who believe in Jesus. The only way he can do this, so they say, is by physically removing the Church from the earth prior to the onset of this time of tribulation. A few observations should indicate why I don’t believe that Jesus (or John) had any concept of a yet future pretribulation rapture of the Church in mind when these words were spoken/written.

First, the notion that any Christian is assured of special protection from trials, tribulations, and persecution is unbiblical. One can see repeatedly in the seven letters of Revelation 2-3 alone that suffering for the sake of Christ and the gospel is something all believers must embrace (see Rev. 2:2-3; 2:9-10; 2:13; 3:8-10). According to Paul, it is “through many tribulations (thlipsis; the same word used in Rev. 1:9; 7:14) we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Jesus declared that “in the world you will have tribulation (thlipsis)” (John 16:33). Again, we are to “rejoice in our sufferings (thlipsis)” (Romans 5:3; see also John 15:19-20; Acts 5:40-41; 1 Cor. 4:11-13; 2 Cor. 4:7-12; 11:24-25; 2 Timothy 3:12).

Second, the trial or tribulation that is coming is designed for the judgment of unbelievers, not Christians. “Those who dwell on the earth” (v. 9) or “earth-dwellers” is a stock phrase in Revelation that always refers to pagan persecutors of the church (6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 12:12; 13:8,12,14; 14:6; 17:2,8). They are the ones who suffer the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments of Revelation which characterize the entire church age, from the first coming of Christ to his second.

Third, the promise, then, is for spiritual protection in the midst of physical tribulation. Jesus is assuring his people that he will provide sufficient sustenance to preserve them in their faith, no matter what they face. The promise here is similar to what we find in Revelation 7:1-3,13-14 where the people of God are “sealed” lest they suffer spiritual harm from “the great tribulation (thlipsis)” (v. 14; cf. also Rev. 11:1-2; 12:6,14-17). Clearly, believers endure and emerge from tribulation spiritually secure. As Beale notes, “they are not preserved from trial by removal from it, but their faith is preserved through trial because they have been sealed by God” (Revelation, 292).

Fourth, pre-tribulationists have typically insisted that the only way God’s people can be spiritually protected from the outpouring of divine wrath is by being physically removed from the earth. But this is clearly not the case, as John 17:15 makes clear (as also does the presence of the Israelites in Egypt during the time of the ten plagues). In this Johannine text we find the only other place in the NT where the precise phrase “kept from” (tēreō ek) is used. There Jesus prays to the Father: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”

It’s important to note in this text that “keep from” is actually contrasted with the notion of physical removal. Jesus prays not that the Father “take them out of the world” (i.e., physically remove them), but that the Father “keep them from” Satan’s effort to destroy their spiritual life. Thus, when we turn to Revelation 3:10 we see that it is from the wrath of God poured out on “earth-dwellers” (unbelievers) that he promises to “keep” them. In the face of certain opposition and oppression from Satan, the Beast, and unbelievers, this is a glorious promise indeed.

A related argument is that since this alleged “Great Tribulation” is to be a time when the wrath of God is poured out on an unbelieving world, Christians cannot be present. After all, believers will never suffer God’s wrath, insofar as Christ has already suffered in their stead on the cross.

But this falls short of a convincing reason to posit a pretribulation rapture. In the first place, even pretribulationists concede that believers will be present on the earth during this “Great Tribulation” (having come to faith at some time subsequent to the rapture). But if they do not suffer God’s wrath (and it is certain that they wouldn’t), why should it be any different for those who were purportedly removed from the earth by the rapture? The simple fact is that no believer at any time in redemptive history will ever suffer divine wrath. Thus, if the pretribulationist admits that blood-bought believers will be in the “Tribulation”, a time of God’s wrath, on what basis does he say that blood-bought believers of the Church cannot be present? We mustn’t forget that in Revelation the “wrath” of God never falls on the believer, but only on the wicked (this is true whether the term for “wrath” is thumos, as in Rev. 14:8, 10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1, 19; 18:3; 19:15; or orgē, as in Rev. 6:16, 17, 14:10; 16:19; 19:15).

Fifth, we must never forget that it is precisely in remaining faithful unto death that our greatest victory is achieved (not in being “raptured” to safety; cf. Rev. 2:10). Believers conquer Satan and the Beast “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Rev. 12:11; emphasis mine).

But what, precisely, is “the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world,” and when will it occur?

Of one thing I’m certain: the promise of protection must be of practical benefit and reassurance for the people of the church in Philadelphia in the first century. Thus, contrary to what is argued by dispensationalists, this “hour of trial” can’t be restricted to (although it may be inclusive of) a time of tribulation at the end of the present age.

If you are inclined to insist on a strictly futurist interpretation of the “hour of trial”, ask yourself whether it seems odd (dare I say, impossible) that Jesus would promise one church in Asia Minor in the first century that they were to be protected from an event that not one single individual in that church would ever see, indeed, an event that allegedly would not transpire for at least another 1,900 years! How could this “hour of trial” be an event centuries after the Philadelphian Christians lived, especially since their protection from it is the very specific reward to them of their very specific, and historically identifiable, resistance to persecution and steadfast faithfulness in proclaiming the word of God? They are promised protection because they “kept the word” of Christ’s perseverance.

I’m persuaded that Jesus is referring to that “tribulation” (thlipsis) which has already begun for Christians (including the Philadelphians) and will continue throughout the present age. In writing to the churches, John identifies himself as their “brother and partner in the tribulation [thlipsis] and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus” (Rev. 1:9). In other words, “the hour of trial” is likely a reference to the entire, inter-advent church age, during which there will always be suffering and tribulation for those who stand firm in their witness for Christ.

This isn’t to deny that there will emerge an especially intensified and horrific period of tribulation in connection with the return of Christ at the end of history (regardless of how long you conceive it to be). But Jesus must have in mind an experience that was impending or already present for the Philadelphian believers in the first century and for all believers in subsequent centuries of the church’s existence.

Sixth, pretribulationists often argue that Revelation 3:10 must describe the removal of the Church from the earth insofar as the Greek word ekklēsia (“church”) is wholly absent from Revelation 4-18, chapters that purportedly describe the “Great Tribulation.” The ekklēsia or “church”, so they say, must be present in heaven. But this argument cuts both ways, insofar as the word ekklēsia is not found in any text in Revelation 4-18 that describes a heavenly scene. Should we conclude from this that the Church must be on the earth? Such arguments from silence are extremely dubious. After all, the word “church” is not found in Mark, Luke, John, 2 Timothy, Titus, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, Jude, and not until the sixteenth chapter of Romans! Unless one is prepared to dismiss large portions of the NT as irrelevant to the Church, the absence or presence of the word itself cannot be made a criterion for determining the applicability of a passage to the saints of the present age.

We should also remember that the word “church” as a denotation of the universal body of Christ considered in its totality does not occur at all in the book of Revelation. All nineteen occurrences of the word in chapters one through three refer to particular “local” congregations of Christians. Add to this the fact that terms commonly used to describe members of the Church, such as “servant” (Rev. 2:20; 7:3; 19:2), and “saints” (5:8; 8:3-4; 13:7, 10; 14:12; 16:6; 17:6; 18:24) are used throughout Revelation.

Finally, Jesus concludes with both a word of assurance and an exhortation: “I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown” (Rev. 3:11). Is this “coming” the Second Advent at the close of history or a first-century disciplinary visitation? Possibly the former, but assuredly not the latter. After all, given the obedience of the Philadelphian church, there was no need for a “coming” of Jesus to judge or chastise (as was the case with Ephesus in 2:5, Pergamum in 2:16, and Sardis in 3:3).

However, there may be another option. Beale suggests that “the ‘coming’ referred to in this verse is the increased presence of Christ that will protect these believers when they pass through tribulation, as has just been mentioned in v. 10” (293). In other words, this may be a spiritual coming to provide comfort and the power to persevere, a drawing near to their hearts to energize them in their commitment. His “coming” or approach to them is not spatial, but spiritual and sanctifying, in which he intensifies his sustaining influence in their souls. If he can “come” to the churches at Ephesus, Pergamum, and Sardis to discipline, he can certainly “come” to the church at Philadelphia to strengthen and bless.



I enjoyed your commentary on the rapture. Personally, and Biblically as weel, there is no SECRET RAPTURE" a snatching of the believer to be away from the Great Tribulation.I like your illustration of the children of Israel in Egpyt. They were with the Egyptians in the first 3 of the 10 Plagues but were separted by God on the last 7 Plagues of these 10 plagues. Fast forward in teh Revelatioin we see that the 7 Last Palgues will be poured out to the unbeloiever who received the Maak of the Beast but to those who are sealed with the Seal of God (REV 7),they will be protected. Theybare here on earth bit they are being kepot from the 7 Last Plagues.
Lastly, i don't believe there is a 7 year tribulation in the Bible. No where in scripoture about this 7 year tribulation. The second coming of Christ is the Blessed Hope of all believers (Titus 2:13).
Dr Storms,
On 12/11/23 on Janet Parshall’s Moody Radio broadcast, time ran out to ask for your help... praying you might still answer these questions?

If God tells us to pray and love our neighbors and enemies ... well wouldn’t that ultimately be demons? My apt neighbors claim to be witches with demons and they definitely have supernatural powers that defy physics.... prayed God would show me how to love them ... sensed His answer of just as I love you - hate your sin, Love the sinner! God has used what the enemies mean to cause me death (every day air compressors fuming me with dissolved bath salts and other toxic fumes) using a master key in the attic and other apt...also my tap and shower water tastes and smells like bath salts or strong chemicals (esp chlorine and it’s fumes) ... because 6 years ago they stole my inheritance out of my other apt... which was $50,000 in gold bonds which several times a day and night they tell me to sign over to them!
My question as I love them with God’s agape Love is if the demons truly repent can they be reconciled with Father God? Why does satan need to keep a covering over demons? Why does God tell us to Love and pray for our enemies if there’s no hope for His forgiveness?
Also, I’ve tried to call the demons out by pleading both the authority and power of Jesus Christ Blood and demons tell me I don’t know how to do it right!
I’ve had 2 Second Church of Christ Pastors at my apt at the same time praying for me... demons weren’t around for that and within 30 minutes returned basically laughing ...
The demons can now telepathically converse with me - wherever and whenever they want- even when I’m in church - even a year ago last summer while I visited my Mom in Texas after her heart surgery....
You, of course, can believe in being kept from the hour of trial (God's wrath) without believing in a pre-trib Rapture. I am pre-wrath and believe we will be taken some time after the Abomination of Desolation, which I believe II Thess 2 clearly says. And with all the martyrs in Revelation, it doesn't seem to me that God will be protecting believers during the 7 years. But he does remove them before his wrath, which will totally devastate the earth and earthdwellers.
when are you going to review "the Rise and Fall of Dispensationalism"?
Excellant article Dr. Storms; very insightful and Biblical!
I enjoyed reading and studying your book "Kingdom Come".
God Bless
Your arguments are quite persusive. I have long thought that a rapture before times get really difficult is wishful thinking and that this pretribulation rapture teaching is ear tickling. I would be interested in a follow up article where you explain why you "don’t believe there is any clear connection between what is happening in Israel and Gaza and the return of Christ." See Zechariah 14:1-2. Thanks Sam.

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