Steve Coerper (3 Mar 2024)
"Kept From the Hour"

Dear Dove community, etc. -

Gino made a very humble-hearted comment last week: "perhaps we all may be shocked, when things turn out different than all of us thought." We get married to our theories and conjectures, and then often become brittle-hearted and unteachable.  Some, sadly, become downright unpleasant and unkind in their discussions. Certainly, the timing of the rapture is an example.

Many are married to the idea that Jesus comes secretly, raptures His church, and then there are seven years of tribulation.  Then He returns visibly and sets up His millennial kingdom.  We are probably all familiar with that model.  Many of us believe it passionately, as if any other possibility is heresy.  PLEASE - let's at least be teachable and courteous.  I don't insist that anyone agree with me, but my humble appeal is that you try to understand what I present whether you agree or not, and then offer clarifications and corrections as appropriate.  Most probably none of us has it all figured out.  No one is exactly right.

"Pre-trib rapture" is an imprecise term, and my experience has been that most people who argue about it never nail it down with precision.  What does "tribulation" mean in the Biblical sense?  Not as modern Bible students and "prophecy experts" use the term, but as the prophets and apostles used it?  I'm not going to offer my own conclusion on this question, but will offer a "working definition" for the purposes of this post.  My intent is for you - the reader - to study it for yourself and reach your own conclusion.  Don't take my word for it.  Decide for yourself whether what follows is reasonable.

In this discussion, "tribulation" means trial, testing, and separation.  Just as the ancients used a "tribulum" on their wheat to separate the useful and desired wheat kernels from the husks and chaff, God uses "tribulation" to test people and separate desirable from the rest.  As Paul says, this is NORMAL for Christians
(Acts 14:22, Romans 5:3, 12:12).  James does not use the word "tribulation" but he DOES use "testing" and "trials" (James 1:2-3) and says when they have their "perfect work" that we will be "perfect and complete, lacking nothing."

Now I would ask, would a believer who is "perfect and complete, lacking nothing" require further testing or additional trials?  Most probably not, and yet we see Christians in Revelation 2:22 who apparently will embrace the teachings of Jezebel:

Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed (literally "coffin"), and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.

These are believers who are NOT "perfect and complete" and this may be those who accept a prosperity gospel, since "friendship with the world is enmity with God
(James 4:4) and James identifies this specifically with adultery.  John also strongly cautions BELIEVERS in 1 John 2:15 when he wrote:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone
loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

The point is that there are, in the church, believers with compromised loyalties.  Do they love God?  When "push comes to shove" will they choose Jesus ... or the world's comforts?  God has a way of making them decide - a short period of "great tribulation" - an "hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth."  This is NOT God's wrath against sin.  That comes later.  Rather, this is a trial, a test which one can pass or fail.

Some are exempt.  Jesus made a promise in Rev. 3:10 that I'm sure we are all familiar with: "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial..."

I've pondered long and hard on this "being kept from" promise.  How will this work?  I've long believed that this was the rapture, because I didn't see any other options.  The Greek word is tēreō and means:  to attend to carefully, take care of, to guard, metaph. to keep, one in the state in which he is - there is nothing in the definition that suggests "to move to a place of safety."  Such a move is not precluded, but it must be inferred.  In Matthew 27:54 the centurion and guards were tēreō Jesus; that is, preventing anyone from interfering.  In John 17:15 Jesus said, "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep
("tēreō") them from the evil one."  There are many additional examples.

One of the "problematic" (to be charitable) ideas that clouds up the discussion is the oft-repeated "seven year tribulation period" or the idea that there are going to be 3 years of "tribulation" followed by another
3 years of "GREAT tribulation."  We've heard that over and over again from the "prophecy experts" but I'd like to propose a question:  What if that's not true??

I don't think it is, but again, study the scriptures and come to your own conclusion.  My inclination is that the "great tribulation" will be SHORT - not anywhere near 3 years, and that it will be in the form of an ultimatum from the God-haters who are basically running the planet.  "Recant or die!"  "Deny Christ and the Bible or no groceries for you."  "We'll send thugs to your house to beat you up and steal your stuff."  "Send in the affidavit or we will turn off your bank account."  Stuff like that - short, intense and binary.  Once this short test - this tribulation - is concluded, the dead in Christ are raised, the living/surviving believers are removed, and the wrath of God begins.

What I suggest as loosely-held speculation is:
  1. The Warning: the upcoming sign on April 8th
  2. Probation - will the U.S. repent?  (probably not) - Our 40-day probation ends on May 18th and shortly after that, the U.S. will be overthrown, just as Nineveh was.  This is also a "days of Lot" object lesson to the rest of the world.
  3. The confirmation of the covenant, very possibly on Shavuot
  4. The "great tribulation" - God uses the wrath of man to try those who dwell upon the earth.  This, again, is a very short period of time.  Those who kept Jesus' command to persevere will NOT be tested.
  5. The rapture - the dead in Christ rise first, then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up. 
  6. Seal Judgments - first seal is the "war in heaven" (Rev. 12:7) and subsequent miseries begin on the earth.
  7. The Dragon is given authority over every tribe, tongue and nation (Rev. 13:7) for 42 months
  8. Then 3 years of what the "experts" call tribulation, but what is really the wrath of God poured out with trumpets and bowls.  This ends with the "battle of Armageddon" in 2027.  This is the mid-point in Daniel's 70th week.
  9. About 3 years of peace, rebuilding, construction of the Millennial Temple and so forth.
  10. The fulfillment/completion of the six objectives listed in Daniel 9:24
In item #4 I said some of us - those who have kept Jesus' command to persevere - would NOT be tested.  That's the promise.  The question is:  how will we avoid the test?  Maybe a rapture event; maybe something else.  Maybe Jesus will ensure that we don't need food and water, but we'll still be here.  Maybe we will "die suddenly."  Maybe we'll have an Acts 8:39-40 experience as Phillip did, and find ourselves in some "safe haven" on earth.  (NOTE: Phillip found himself at Azotus. Azotus means "fortress.")  I suppose it's possible that "we shall all be changed" (1 Cor. 15:51) just before this time of trial begins, but we don't get "caught up together (1 Thess. 4:17) until after the trial is over, maybe a few weeks later.

I'm not adverse to dying.  I just don't like the idea of leaving a corpse behind for my family to have to deal with.  They will have enough misery without including a funeral and final expenses (yes, we have insurance, but there's no guarantee the insurance companies will remain solvent).  If Jesus takes you to Himself, you're long gone before your body hits the floor, or (if at night), long before your departure is noticed by those left behind.  No pain - you won't feel a thing.

Still, we don't KNOW.  We look at the scriptures and we speculate.  We know that God's plan is perfect.  We don't have an order of events or a timetable.  My purpose with this was to explore the question of what "kept from the hour" means in Rev. 3:10.  Will we be preserved in and shielded from "great tribulation"?  Will the rapture take us into the Throne Room of God?  Has Jesus prepared a "safe haven" for us on the earth?  Is there some other possibility?

One way or another, I believe we will be with Christ on or before Shavuot, which is June 12th.  Be ready.  I covet your prayerful consideration, your prayers for me, and your insights and comments.