“Because you have kept my admonition to endure steadfastly, I will also keep you from the hour of testing that is about to come on the whole world to test those who live on the earth.” (Revelation 3:10)
“hoti etērēsas ton logon tēs hypomonēs mou, kagō se tērēsō ek tēs hōras tou peirasmou tēs mellousēs erchesthai epi tēs oikoumenēs holēs peirasai tous katoikountas epi tēs gēs.” (Revelation 3:10)
I want to comment on a key point in Revelation 3:10 that should be considered in its interpretation.
As a preface, we should all agree that this is not a “timing” rapture verse. We all agree that saints will not experience God’s wrath. However, there are two exceptions to this. First, there are many posttribs who believe that, while saints will not have to endure the wrath of God, (wrongly) believe that we will be on earth during the wrath of God. They do not believe that we will be raptured before the day of the Lord’s wrath, despite, which I believe, Jesus in Matt 24, Paul in 1 Thess 4–5, and Rev 6–9 clearly teach that the rapture will happen before God pours out his eschatological wrath on the wicked. Second, there are popular pretribulation teachers (not all) who actually believe that blood-bought saints will experience God’s wrath during the “tribulation saints.” They call them “tribulation saints” who will be chastised by God’s wrath during the seven year period, because they did not accept the gospel before the rapture (This is the skewed (heretical) way they try to get around the fifth-seal martyrs problem!).
I want to make an additional preliminary note. Pretribulationism reads this verse as a promise to the church that they will be raptured (“keep you from”) before the day of the Lord’s wrath (“the hour of testing”). This is supposed to prove a pretribulational rapture. However, there is one flaw if they think they “own” this conclusion. Prewrath also affirms that the rapture occurs before the day of the Lord. So Revelation 3:10 does not address when the day of the Lord starts. The verse only gives a promise of a particular protection. As for when God’s wrath begins, the interpreter needs to turn to other passages to answer this more fundamental question. Therefore, pretribulationism cannot use this commonly-cited verse as a proof text for their position.
Okay, to my main point. I think there has been an unnecessary emphasis placed on the Greek of tērēsō ek (“kept from”) that eclipses an important point.
There are some prewrathers who believe the hour of testing is the beast’s great tribulation and others (such as myself) who are inclined to believe it is the day of the Lord’s wrath. In any case, it does not affect prewrath either way. We are protected from the great tribulation through persevering faith and we are protected from God’s wrath through the rapture. So it is more of an intramural debate among prewrathers.
The key point I want to highlight is that the hour of testing is said to come upon, not the saints, but “on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth” (Rev 3:10). The expression tous katoikountas epi tēs gēs (“the inhabitants of the earth”) in the book of Revelation clearly refers to the wicked and does not include the saints (cf. Rev 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 13:8, 12, 14; 17:2, 8). It does not say that it is intended to test the saints, but rather it explicitly states the purpose is to test tous katoikountas epi tēs gēs (“the inhabitants of the earth”).
While the beast’s mark system can be considered a test for saints, in this context, this particular test is directed to the wicked (i.e. “the inhabitants of the earth”). In addition, the term peirasmos (test) can mean: “to try to learn the nature or character of someone or something by submitting such to thorough and extensive testing” (Louw & Nida). This sense fits the context because in the book of Revelation it repeatedly notes that the inhabitants of the world refused to repent as a response to God’s wrath (see Rev 9:20–21; 16:9, 11). In other words, God puts the wicked through the peirasmos of his wrath and it reveals their character through their refusal to repent.
Thus, this collocation of “the hour of testing” with “the inhabitants of the earth” strongly indicates that the identification of the referent to the hour of testing is the day of the Lord’s wrath.
It should go without saying that this is not a full exegesis of this text. My intention was to highlight this key point that interpreters should consider when they examine this text, because it sheds light on the referent to “the hour of testing” in Revelation 3:10.