What the Bible says about
Tribulation, Protection from
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Do we live in a spiritual Sodom and Gomorrah? Is the end coming? Is Christ returning? Is the Kingdom of God fairly close? Are we lingering in the worldliness that surrounds us? It will take faith to walk away. Lot believed to such depth that he urged his sons-in-law, and yet he lingered. Lot knew the angels were there, standing by and waiting for him and his family. Even they tried to hasten him out, and yet Lot lingered.
He was slow when he should have been quick. He was backward when he should have been forward. He was trifling when he should have been hasty. He was cold when he should have been hot. He was loitering when he should have been hurrying. We might say today, "Was this man out of it, or what?" In a major sense, he was, yet he was a converted man.
The world around us is smoldering embers that will soon burst into the flames of the greatest tribulation that has ever hit the entirety of the earth. Unfortunately, many linger while the world is getting ready to burn. Lot is an example of a true Christian, who appears to know far more than he lives up to; he can see and understand far more than he practices.
Such people are thrilled to hear good, sound preaching. They believe in the doctrines of God, and yet they are constantly doing things that disappoint others around them. They believe in the Kingdom of God, and even seem to yearn for it. They hate Satan, believe in the Lake of Fire, yet it seems as if they do things to tempt Satan into testing them, putting the screws to them. They believe that time is short, but they act as though they wish it were long. They know that holiness is a beautiful thing—they like to read about it in books and love to see it in others—but they have the notion that it is impossible for them to be that holy and spiritual.
Lot represents those who dread personal sacrifice and shrink from self-denial. They have a horror of being considered narrow-minded, and so they tend to go to the opposite extreme, becoming so tolerant that they try to please everybody. They forget that they should first please God. These people are trying to keep up with the world. They are ingenious at discovering reasons for not separating from it, giving themselves all kinds of justifications for attending questionable amusements; wild, violent, sexual movies; or holding on to questionable relationships. They persuade themselves that it does good to mix a little with the world.
They cannot find it in themselves to do battle with their besetting sin, whether it be laziness, a bad temper, pride, excessive self-concern, vanity, or impatience. They allow it to remain in their mind, justifying it by thinking, "Well, that's just the way I am. My daddy before me was the same way, and that's the way mama was, and I guess that's the way I'll always be." They are lingering while the world is beginning to burn. These people are not really happy, for they know too much and are conscience-stricken. They are not really committed and they know it.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part Three)
God is, of course, speaking of the nations of Israel. They will be going through it—we know that for sure because "they shall be saved out of it." In other words, their protection will not come until they have gone through perhaps most of it. They are going to suffer through it. Then God will intervene—save them out of it. If God does not save them out of it, then what Jesus says in Matthew 24:22 ("no flesh would be saved") will come to pass. They will all die in it. It is going to be that bad!
We must put ourselves into this because the church of God is largely located in the nations of Israel. The overwhelming majority of us are in the United States and Canada. Are we consigned to the same fate as Israel (in this prophecy) because we live in Israel? My hope is that God has a place of safety, and that I am worthy to escape. Nevertheless, you can see that we, as a nation, are facing very terrifying times.
John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 1)
It is Ezekiel, the priest, who divides the hair. In this case, he seems to be a type of Christ, our High Priest. This squares with what we see in Revelation 2-3, where it is Jesus Christ who judges the churches, and He decides who is who and who goes where.
Recall that in Revelation 3:10 Jesus promises to keep those who persevere from the hour of trial. What are they persevering in? Verse 8 tells us that, though they have only a little strength, they "have kept My word, and have not denied My name." These are people who take following God seriously and do not give in an inch to this world. Jesus will be looking for these traits in those He chooses to protect from tribulation.
Ronny H. Graham
Hidden From the Hour of Trial
One of the spirit beings who had "charge over the city" (verse 1) carried, not a battle-axe like his fellows, but a writer's inkhorn (verse 2), and he was also dressed differently, in linen. His is a different purpose. God charges him to go ahead of his fellows, saying in verse 4: "Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it."
The others follow him, obeying God's command to go through the city killing and not having pity (verse 5), but in verse 6, God warns, "Do not come near anyone on whom is the mark."
Those people who sighed and cried somehow found a place of safety from the conflagration and the terror. They had God's mark on them, protecting them from His judgment. Sighing and crying over the abominations and the sins of the larger society, then, must be enormously important to us, too, as we also stand on the brink of similar tribulation.
The Torment of the Godly (Part One)
Failure to be careful in our obedience has unique consequences as we approach the end of this age. It will be a time of tribulation whose severity the world has never seen or ever will see again. Christ warns us of that in Matthew 24:21, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.”
God promises protection for some during this time:
Because you have patiently obeyed me despite the persecution, therefore I will protect you from the time of Great Tribulation and temptation, which will come upon the world to test everyone alive. (Revelation 3:10, The Living Bible)
Seek the LORD [inquire for Him, inquire of Him, and require Him as the foremost necessity of your life], all you humble of the land who have acted in compliance with His revealed will and have kept His commandments; seek righteousness, seek humility [inquire for them, require them as vital]. It may be you will be hidden in the day of the LORD's anger. (Zephaniah 2:3, The Amplified Bible)
Who receives this offer of protection? It is those who “have patiently obeyed” Christ and “have acted in compliance with His revealed will and have kept His commandments.” It could not be more clear.
In conjunction with obedience, Zephaniah also instructs us to “seek humility.” Why is humility vital? It takes humility to submit carefully to all that God commands compared to the Laodicean arrogance in deciding for oneself what is important to obey and what is of too little consequence to obey completely.
Many call this place of protection where God hides the obedient at the time of the Great Tribulation the “Place of Safety.” They consider it a refuge provided by God for three and a half years of final training. People in God's church have debated the where, the why, and the how of this subject for decades.
If there is a Place of Safety, who would God want there? It would be a time of intense training. Would He not want people who have already proven they are completely in sync with Him, believing and living by His every word, willing to follow without question wherever He leads? Why would He take on at that crucial time the task of herding cats, people who have proven they prefer to do their own thing? He has already demonstrated the futility of such an undertaking in His dealings with ancient Israel.
At this unique time in history, being careful could be the difference between being protected from what is to come and being left squarely in the middle of it. It could be a choice between life or death, escape or tribulation. Are we making our choice now by how we respond to God's many admonitions to be careful to observe His commands?
We can be careless about our obedience and lie to ourselves about the quality of that obedience. After all, it is what Laodiceans do:
Because you say, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing”—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. (Revelation 3:17)
God sees the truth. Time seems short as we see the world around us rapidly disintegrating daily. So, at this critical time, we need to consider soberly, honestly, and carefully, and obey all that Christ means when He says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Luke 4:4).
Carefully obeying every word matters.
2 Thessalonians 2:7
Pressure was mounting for these people. Jewish civilization was in turmoil. It would not come to a climax for some nineteen years after this in AD 69. An end would come upon Judea in 70 AD The church was already beginning to experience some of that turmoil. About a dozen years after the writing of I and II Thessalonians, Nero was emperor in Rome and persecuting Christians.
Tribulation against Christians broke out in one place and then another. It was scattered all over the world, a little bit here, a little bit there, some in Rome, some in Corinth, some in Thessalonica, some down in Jerusalem. Gradually, it built until the church was driven to the wilderness for 1,260 years, where it barely maintained its existence.
We cannot depend on that escape; that prophecy has been fulfilled. There will be no running away, not this time. There will be no disappearing into the woodwork, except for those to whom God gives the privilege of going to the Place of Safety. And who knows what true Christians will have to face between now and then? As it intensifies, the time of the end will be a very tumultuous period. We find in verse 10 that some were falling away, and unfortunately, that will be the "escape" some choose to take.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic
Christ quotes Isaiah 22:22 in the preamble of His letter to the church at Philadelphia. In identifying Himself to the church, He quotes what He said through Isaiah concerning Eliakim. If we want to understand the letter to Philadelphia, we must begin with this reference. Jesus clarifies that Eliakim's role was a type of the stewardship role that He Himself now fills. In quoting Isaiah, Jesus declares that He is the ultimate fulfillment of Eliakim's position as steward of the house.
In verse 8, Christ announces that He has set an open door before this church and tells them why.
It is imperative to catch the way Jesus says this. The reason they have an open door is because they have a little strength, have kept His Word, and have not denied His name. Thus, He mentions the open door in response to their condition coupled with their faithfulness. We need to grasp this to recognize what the open door is. The Holman Christian Standard Bible captures this aspect well: “I know your works. Because you have limited strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name, look, I have placed before you an open door that no one is able to close.”
What is this open door? The conventional interpretation among those who have come out of the Worldwide Church of God is that Christ has given the Philadelphians an open door to preach the gospel, an idea that is not without merit. In three of Paul's epistles, he uses an open door as a metaphor for an opportunity to preach (I Corinthians 16:9; II Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3). But this metaphor has no connection at all to Christ's quotation of Isaiah 22:22. Even so, we will follow the rabbit hole to see where this typically leads us.
Christ promises to keep the Philadelphians from the hour of trial, boosting the importance of being a Philadelphian because it involves protection during the Tribulation. Consequently, it then becomes imperative to determine which church group appears to have the open door to preach the gospel, because—the reasoning goes—God will protect that group.
Suddenly, a tremendous interest then arises in accumulating “proof” of an open door, since it will apparently establish that a group is Philadelphian and guaranteed protection. The “proof” is then held up as the reason all church members should join that group instead of another. But when this is the primary approach, what people usually focus on are not the things that truly matter but numbers—like how many radio or television stations the group is on, how many new people are attending services, how many subscribers or website hits it receives, or what percentage of its income a group spends on preaching the gospel.
We can add to this heady mix the incongruity of boasting about preaching the gospel with great strength. Remember, Christ identifies the Philadelphians as having only “a little strength”! It cannot be both ways.
The idea has been that, if we want to be protected and to “escape all these things which will come to pass” (Luke 21:36), we have to be with the group whose door to preach the gospel is open just a little wider than the rest. Yet, if our motivation is nothing more than self-preservation, something is dreadfully wrong. Christ specifically warns of this approach when He says that he who seeks to save his life will lose it (Luke 9:24; 17:33).
When the open door is interpreted to mean an opportunity to preach the gospel, the fruit has been exclusivity, comparing ourselves among ourselves (II Corinthians 10:12), division, competition, and a pitiful supply of love—works of the flesh rather than fruit of the Spirit. This occurs largely because people keep pushing God and all He is doing out of the picture. It is easy to focus on the works of men—which harkens back to God's controversy with Shebna the scribe, who was replaced by Eliakim because of ostentation and presumption, focusing on his own affairs and his place in history rather than in simply doing his job (Isaiah 22:15-20).
David C. Grabbe
The 'Open Door' of Philadelphia
Before examining this promise, it may be helpful to understand what it does not say. Note how conventional wisdom would paraphrase this verse:
Because you consider yourself to be a Philadelphian, and because you are with the church organization that is doing the most to preach the gospel to the world, I will keep you from the hour of trial and will take you to the Place of Safety where you will be protected while all those who disagree with you will go through the Tribulation.
"Conventional wisdom" is not actually wisdom! It is what is generally held to be true by many, yet it may, in fact, be fallacious. This rendering of Revelation 3:10 is the conventional wisdom in some circles, illustrating how many take narcissistic liberties with this verse. It also shows why there is such an emphasis today on which church group is the best: because we are averse to pain and tend to try to avoid it. Thus, some convince themselves that they will be safe from what lies ahead because they are with the right church—rather than being right with God. This is extremely dangerous, as it indicates that they trust in the wrong thing.
The letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 are written in large part from a perspective of "if the shoe fits, wear it." In each, Jesus concludes with "he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches"—plural—meaning we should glean all that we can from each letter rather than focus on our favorite one.
In this light, a way to approach Revelation 3:10 is that perseverance is part of what Christ uses to define who a Philadelphian is. Thus, an individual is a Philadelphian because he keeps His command to persevere, in addition to exemplifying the other things He says, such as keeping His Word and not denying His name (Revelation 3:8). In short, a person cannot conclude that, just because he is fellowshipping with a particularly faithful group, he will be carried along in its positive momentum and benefit from the promise of protection and other blessings. An unfaithful individual in an overall faithful group will reap what he sows, not what the rest of the group sows.
Christ says similar things in other places, as in Matthew 10:22: "And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved" (emphasis ours throughout). He makes no mention of group membership but addresses the enduring individual. Similarly, in Matthew 24:12-13 and Luke 21:36, He emphasizes what we do as individuals—our personal faithfulness and endurance—rather than the merits of a particular group. Just as Laodiceanism can be found in each of us regardless of the church we attend, so each of us can persevere and courageously endure no matter where we fellowship.
David C. Grabbe
Who Will Be Kept from the Hour of Trial?
Revelation mentions patient endurance seven times. At the book's beginning, John sets the tone by introducing himself as "I, John, your brother and companion (sharer and participator) with you in the tribulation and kingdom and patient endurance [which are] in Jesus Christ" (Revelation 1:9, Amplified Bible). The construction here is peculiar, but John uses three words to describe one thing—namely, the tribulation that is connected with the Kingdom and which requires patient endurance (see Acts 14:22; II Timothy 2:11-12).
In the letters to the seven churches, several recurring phrases or themes appear. They all contain "I know your works" and "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Five letters contain the command to repent, and "patience" appears four times in three of them, a good indicator of the importance of patience to God's church, especially at the end time.
In addition to the mention in Revelation 3:10, Christ commends the church at Ephesus for its patience:
I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. (Revelation 2:2-3)
Perseverance—patient endurance—is also a part of the praise that Christ gives to the Thyatiran church: "I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience" (Revelation 2:19).
As the prophecies of the end time unfold, the patience of the saints is highlighted twice more. The first is in Revelation 13:9-10: "If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints."
In the preceding verses, John describes the Beast, his power, and his blasphemy. God allows him to make war with the saints and overcome them. This is part of what the saints will have to endure. Some translations, like The Amplified Bible and the English Standard Version (ESV), end verse 10 with "Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints," which fits exactly with Christ's "command to persevere" (NKJV) or "[keeping] the word of [His] patience."
The first part of verse 10 can be confusing because, even though the book was written in Greek, John is actually using a Hebrew idiom that signifies the certainty of approaching judgment. This can be seen in Jeremiah 43:11; 15:2.
This Hebraism means that it is so certain that the Beast will carry out these things that none will escape being involved in some way. Thus, God calls for endurance and faith.
Revelation 14:12 contains another reference to the perseverance of the saints: "Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus."
The saints are defined as those who keep God's law and maintain and give attention to the faith of Jesus. Again, the context is the time when the world will worship the Beast and receive his mark. As in Revelation 13:10, translations such as the ESV render the first part as "Here is a call for the endurance of the saints," meaning that, when the saints see this occurring, their endurance and perseverance will be in greatest need.
David C. Grabbe
Who Will Be Kept from the Hour of Trial?
Because Christ criticizes Philadelphia very little, opens doors before her, and offers protection from the Tribulation, it is easy to think we "have it made" if we were or are part of Philadelphia. Yet Christ admonishes Philadelphia just as He does the other churches: Overcome! A Christian must never rest on his oars, no matter what his situation or era. We all must overcome the world (I John 5:4), our nature, and Satan to be granted salvation, and if we do, entrance to God's Kingdom is an absolute promise!
The Seven Churches: Philadelphia
Do we really want fellowship with God? Our frequent contact with God, or lack of it, is an easy, concrete measurement for both God and ourselves to know the true answer.
A Laodicean's central characteristic is an aversion to God's presence. He does not gladly throw open the doors to let Christ in. Instead, he wants his privacy to pursue his own interests, unimpeded by the constraints God's presence would impose.
Striving to pray always throws open the door of our minds to God, and just as Luke 21:36 indicates, by vigilant watching we can spot our Laodicean tendencies, overcome them, and avoid tribulation. Commentator Albert Barnes makes some interesting points on Revelation 3:20:
The act of knocking implies two things:
(a) that we desire admittance; and
(b) that we recognise the right of him who dwells in the house to open the door to us or not, as he shall please. We would not obtrude upon him; we would not force his door; and if, after we are sure that we are heard, we are not admitted, we turn quietly away. Both of these things are implied here by the language used by the Saviour when he approaches man as represented under the image of knocking at the door: that he desires to be admitted to our friendship; and that he recognises our freedom in the matter. He does not obtrude himself upon us, nor does he employ force to find admission to the heart. If admitted, he comes and dwells with us; if rejected, he turns quietly away—perhaps to return and knock again, perhaps never to come back.
Striving to pray always is our conscious choice to let God in. Psalm 4:4 (Contemporary English Version,CEV) emphasizes the seriousness of examining ourselves: "But each of you had better tremble and turn from your sins. Silently search your heart as you lie in bed."
Every night, at the end of another busy day, provides us—and God—an opportunity to evaluate the true intent of our hearts. We can ask ourselves: How much and how often did we acknowledge God throughout our day? How much did we talk to Him and fellowship with Him today? Where did we miss opportunities to do it? Why?
Perhaps the biggest question to ask is this: When did we hear the "still small voice" today and hide from God's presence? Our daily answers to these self-examination questions and our practical responses could in a large measure determine where we spend both the Tribulation and eternity (Luke 21:36).
Praying Always (Part Five)
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