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Another Look at Revelation 3:10

by Dave Bussard

The seven churches in the beginning of Revelation each receive a letter coming from the mouth of Jesus. Each letter addresses that church’s present state, as well as a future promise, both of which are relevant to us in this lifetime. The promises given to these churches are based on the same principle as the promises given to men like Abraham in Hebrews 11, meaning that they didn’t get to see them fulfilled in their lifetimes, but they will be fulfilled in the future.

Within the letter directed to the Church of Philadelphia is one of only two verses in the Bible that appear to teach that we will not experience the final persecution coming in the last days. But appearances can be deceptive, especially when we’ve been brainwashed by pre-trib scholars who have repeatedly told us what this particular passage means.

Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth (Rev. 3:10, NASB).

It is assumed that the “hour of testing” that we will be “kept from” is the 70th Week, or at least the Great Tribulation. However, when the entirety of the Bible contradicts this interpretation, it seems unlikely that this is what this passage is teaching.

I suggest that most have been wrong about this hotly debated section of scripture, including those who believe as I do, that we will not escape the future suffering. I admit that I was even wrong about this passage when I first wrote my book, Who Will Be Left Behind and When?, wasting ten pages analyzing the Greek meaning and the pre-trib interpretation. No such elaborate linguistic gymnastics are necessary.

While I formerly proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that that the translation, “keep you from the hour of testing,” can also be translated (according to the Greek), “preserve you while within the hour of testing,” I now reject that this is what the passage is conveying. I believe that the test has absolutely nothing to do with the Church — or the “tribulation saints,” as the pre-trib theory would call them. The test is not for the followers of Christ, but for enemies of God. The test is not the 70th Week in its entirety, or even the time span of the Great Tribulation, but rather, the Day of the Lord.

Notice, in this passage, who the test is intended for:

…I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

The test is for “those who dwell on the earth.” So what? There are many keys within the language in the book of Revelation, and “those who dwell on the earth” has a distinct meaning that goes far beyond a simple statement concerning people living on Planet Earth. This exact phrase is used nine times in Revelation. Each time, it is referring to those who are the enemies of God and worshipers of the beast.

All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. (Rev. 13:8)

See also: Revelation 6:10, 8:13, 11:10, 13:12, 13:14, 17:2, 17:8.

I’ve been wrestling with this concept for about a year, and recently, the simplicity of it hit me when I read the following verses. It became obvious that the test is, in fact, the Day of the Lord; and is for those hostile towards God.

When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also. (Rev. 6:9-11)

We know from the above passage that God is not “judging” or “avenging” the blood of the martyrs, and is therefore not pouring out end-times wrath during the seals as pre-trib teachers would claim. But I believe there is more going on here. Why isn't God judging or avenging the martyrs' blood by distributing wrath upon "those who dwell on the earth?" Because it's not about them yet! God clearly tells the martyrs to rest — or, as the NIV more accurately translates it, “wait” — until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed was completed. Then He will “judge” and “avenge” the death of the martyrs.

Up to this point in the 70th Week, the followers of Christ have been the ones suffering, but this will soon change so that the “earth dwellers” will become the objects of suffering. It is no coincidence that the sixth seal follows God’s promise to judge and avenge the death of His martyred servants:

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