“behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it ... Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly ...” (Re. 3:8, 10, 11)
We believe that these three promises are one.
The “open door” is to escape the Great Tribulation described in verse 10. The door refers to the Rapture (1 Th. 4:15-17), whereby the New Testament saints are taken to heaven before the beginning of the Tribulation. Note that the Rapture is held forth as a source of comfort to New Testament saints (1 Th. 4:18). If the Rapture occurred at the end of the Great Tribulation, it would not be a comfort, to say the least! In 1 Thessalonians 5:1-9 we see that the day of the Lord will come upon the unsaved as a thief in the night, but that day will not overtake the believers because they are not appointed to wrath. Two distinctly different groups are described in this passage, “they” (unbelievers, 1 Th. 5:2, 7) and “ye,” “yourselves,” “we,” and “us” (believers, 1 Th. 5:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9).
The “hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world” is the day of the Lord described by Isaiah (Isa. 2:10-22), Daniel (Da. 12:1), Joel (Joe. 2:2), Malachi (Mal. 4:1), and Jesus (Mt. 24:21). It is described in detail in Revelation 6-18. It is called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7), because God’s attention will be upon Israel and the fulfilling of Daniel’s 70 Week prophecy (Da. 9:24-27). The object is “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy” (Da. 9:24). The first 69 weeks of years have been fulfilled. During those weeks, Jerusalem and its wall were rebuilt after the Babylonian destruction, Christ came and was crucified as the atonement for sin (“cut off, but not for himself”), and Jerusalem was destroyed by Rome. Christ came unto His own, the Jews, and was rejected, and He turned to building the church, calling them out of all nations by the preaching of the gospel. He is visiting the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name (Ac. 15:14). When the church-age saints are taken away, Daniel’s 70th Week will be fulfilled. “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate” (Da. 9:27). During this final week of seven years, the Antichrist will make a deceitful covenant with apostate Israel, and after 3.5 years he will break it and defile the third temple by exalting himself as God. This will be followed by desolations until the return of Christ in power and glory to establish His kingdom. The judgments that will be poured out at that time will bring Israel to repentance.
It is not possible that “keep thee from the hour of temptation” could refer to being kept through the Tribulation, as mid-tribulation or post-tribulationism teaches.
(1) The preachers who are on earth at that time are clearly identified as Jewish, selected from the 12 tribes of Israel (Re. 7).
(2) The Tribulation is the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7); it pertains to Israel, not the church. See also Daniel 12:1, which connects Israel with the “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time.”
(3) The saints on earth during the Tribulation are not preserved from severe persecution and martyrdom (Re. 6:9-11; 7:9-14).
(4) Christ promises to keep the faithful New Testament saints “from” (Greek ek) the Tribulation, not “in” (Greek en) or “through” (Greek dia) it. Ek has the meaning “out of.”
(5) Christ promises to keep the faithful New Testament saints from “the hour of temptation.” He promises to keep them from that period of time, not merely to keep them from that temptation. “Illustrations of the use of ‘hour’ where emphasis falls on the experience within the time, not the period itself (Mt. 26:45; Mr. 14:35, 41; Joh. 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1), are not relevant nor are they persuasive even if they were relevant” (Robert L. Thomas, Revelation). Compare Christ’s words in John 12:27, “Father, save me from this hour...” (soson me ek tes horas tautes). “Of particular interest is the occurrence of the verb soson, a word akin to tereo, in referring to deliverance, combined with the phrase ek tes horas, the same phrase as in Revelation 3:10. In this other Johannine passage Christ prayed to be saved from the hour of His crucifixion, meaning obviously that, humanly speaking. He wanted to be delivered from the awful agony of that experience. In other words, He wanted to be spared the necessity of living through the time period when it took place. It was not that He prayed for strength to go through it without giving in or feeling its effects. This is a prayer for complete exemption from the hour of crucifixion. This meaning, transferred to Rev. 3:10, shows it to be a promise of complete exemption from ‘the hour of trial.’ In essence, the promise is, ‘I will protect you (at a place) away from the period of misery on earth.’ The contention that Jesus in John 12:27 ha already entered into His hour of trial cannot be sustained. The hour referred to was the hour of His impending crucifixion, which was yet future (cf. John 7:30). So the comparable construction and terminology from another Johannine book lend weight to the view of removal from the scene of tribulation” (Thomas, Revelation).
(6) The words, “Behold, I come quickly” (Re. 3:10) immediately following the promise of keeping from the hour also promise the Pre-tribulational Rapture, as we will see in the study on “Christ’s exhortation to the church at Philadelphia.”
The promise to the church of Philadelphia is God’s promise to every born again believer who is alive when the church age ends and the “time of Jacob’s trouble” begins.
This promise also applies to the open doors that Christ sets before His people in this present life. When God opens a door, no man can shut it. I recall when my wife and I first arrived in Nepal in 1979 to start a church planting ministry. Everything looked impossible. It was against the law to preach the gospel in those days. We could only get a one-month visa. We were all alone. There were no Baptist churches and no other “fundamentalists” of any type in the country. The ecumenical association tried to force us to leave. The hearts of the people were benighted by centuries of pagan idolatry. The situation looked impossible, but God opened a door that no man could shut and by His power and grace we were able to start a self-supporting, self-governing, self-propagating church that continues to exist day. Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Mt. 28:18), and when He opens a door we can be sure that it is open!
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