The Key PreTribulational Rapture Passage?

By Ed. F. Sanders

"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"
Rev. 3:10(1)

According to one pretrib pastor and teacher "The most important single passage dealing with the timing of the Rapture is Revelation 3:10!"(2).

The Key PreTribulational Rapture Passage?

Rev 3:10 is used by almost all pretrib proponents as a key 'proof text' for their position. Their interpretation is that this passage ‘proves’ that the church must be raptured before the tribulation. A careful analysis of the verse will dispel this view.

First, note that the verse, or its context, does not mention the Rapture, a 7 year Tribulation, nor does it explicitily define any time relationship to the 2 events!

Secondly, the verse is addressed to the Church at Philadelphia, a local assembly in
Asia Minor at the time Revelation was written. It is important to note that pretribs assign this to "the things which are" (Rev 1:19 KJV) section of the book, yet they overlook its primary interpretation and project it to a 2000+ year future tribulation period. While the we may legitimately make a secondary interpretation of the verse, i.e. that God will protect us during trials and testing in the world, to use it as a primary text for proving a pretrib rapture is untenable.

Thirdly, the pretrib interpretation is derived from their interpretation of the two phrases: “keep you from” and  “the hour of trial”.

The NT Greek scholar Marvin Vincent  comments on the first phrase: “from (ek, ek) the hour”: the preposition implies, not a keeping from temptation, but a keeping in temptation, as the result of which they shall be delivered out of its power”(3). Vincent's exegesis is consistent with Jesus teaching in John 17:15 "I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (which asserts just the opposite of the pretrib interpretation!).  

The second phrase “hour of trial” is taken by pretribs to mean a 7 year tribulation that occurs between the Rapture and the Second Coming. The Greek word “trial” is peirasmos (peirasmos) meaning: “trial, temptation, a putting to the test” (Strongs Lexicon). There is nothing in this verse or its context to suggests a specific period of time. Pretribs use the word “Tribulation” as a technical word to mean a 7 year period of time, even though this is never said explicitly in the OT or NT. Rather it is an “implied” interpretation based on their assumption of a pretrib Rapture and a 7 year “gap” between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel (this also is never explicitly stated in the Bible).

In fact the word “tribulation” is the Greek word thilipis (thilipis) (i.e. see Matthew 24:29, Rev 2:22). The word means, and is variously translated in the KJV: affliction(s), tribulation(s), trouble, depending on the context. It is not a ‘technical’ word as pretribs would like, “thilipis” has a ‘generic’ usage in the NT. In fact “the word is used generally of the hardships which Christ's followers would suffer (Mat 13:21; Mat 24:9, Mat 24:21, Mat 24:29; Mar 4:17; Mar 13:19, Mar 13:24; Joh 16:33; 1Co 7:28); or which they are now passing through (Rom 5:3; Rom 12:12; 2Co 4:17; Phi 4:14); or through which they have already come (Act 11:19; 2Co 2:4; Rev 7:14)”(4) .

Pretribs use the verse to 'bash' those who do not agree with them by saying that if you don't believe their 'left behind' theory then you must believe that the Church will experience God's wrath. This is a 'straw man' argument with no basis except to distract from their baseless arguments. I have read works by and known many posttrib premillennial and amillennialists, and even some preterists and postmillennialists, and I have never heard anyone say they believed Christians will experience God's wrath!

Another "Key Verse" In Revelation

Rev. 4:1 is another key "proof-text" verse for the pretrib Rapture theory: 

"After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter"

Most pretrib commentators argue that since John is a representative or 'type' of the Church and is sent up to heaven, this means that the Church will be caught up to heaven, before the tribulation! But the verse says nothing about the Rapture or the Tribulation, nor does it refer to any time-frame for either. There is no basis for a pretrib rapture here!

Making an honest exegesis of these passages in Revelation, leaving behind the dispensational pretrib ‘filter’, it is obvious that these verses are not ‘proof-texts’ of a pretrib rapture. The interpretation of the two passages in Revelation by dispensational pretribs results from their reading into the verse what they want it to say rather that what it actually says. There is no clear statement of a pretrib rapture in Revelation (which pretribs should find quite curious since it is the most comprehensive treatment of the end times in the Bible!).


(1) All quotations from the ESV unless otherwise noted.
(2) Quote from article on the Rapture at
(3) Vincent’s New Testament Word Studies (4 Volumes) by Marvin Vincent
(4) Article on Tribulation, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia