Revelation 3:10


Sermon preached on February 12, 2012 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

How great is your trust in God’s protection? Are you absolutely confident that God will take care of you no matter what the circumstances? Is your faith in God strong enough that you know absolutely that you are safe in Him?

Ravi Zacharias writes about the kind of trust we are to have in God—how it is to be great and unwavering. To drive home his point he talks about the famed trapeze artist Rodleigh Stevens. Ravi writes,

“Rodleigh gives me a glimpse of what goes on between the one suspended in air, hurtling through space, and the one waiting for the right split second to grab him and keep him from falling; ‘When I fly to Joe I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely over the apron behind the catchbar... You see, the worst thing a flyer can do is to try to catch the catcher... Don't try to grab him; he will grab you. Just stretch out your arms and trust, trust, trust.’”



(From Henri Nouwen, “The Only Necessary Thing” p. 14)

Isn’t that a wonderful picture? As a Christian you should trust God like that. He has promised to protect you and He will surely do it.

The great truth we see in our text is that

Jesus promises that He will protect His people in the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole earth.

Jesus said to the church in Philadelphia,

“Since you have kept my command to endure patiently,
I will also keep you from the hour of trial
that is going to come upon the whole world
to test those who live on the earth.”

But what exactly does this mean? To help us understand it, let's break it down a little.

First we need to look at this hour of trial. What does the 'hour of trial' mean?

The fact that it's going to come upon the 'whole world' suggests that

it relates to the end times—just before Jesus comes again.

Most commentators take it that way. For instance, Robert H. Mounce writes, (Revelation (NICNT; p.103)

"The hour of trial is that period of testing and tribulation which precedes the establishment of the eternal kingdom."



Matthew 24 is difficult to interpret because it mixes images of the destruction of Jerusalem with apocalyptic images of the last times. But verse 30 and 31 probably refer to the hour of trial that is spoken of in our text. It says,

"At that time the sign of the Son of Man
will appear in the sky,
and all the nations of the earth will mourn.
They will see the Son of Man
coming on the clouds of the sky,
with power and great glory.
And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call,
and they will gather his elect from the four winds,
from one end of the heavens to the other."

The hour of trial is a period of great tribulation that is going to occur just before Jesus comes again. All the nations of the world are going to mourn because of the judgment that is going to come upon the earth.

The second thing we should understand about this judgment is that

it is exclusively against the enemies of Christ.

The hour of trial is going to test those who live on the earth. The phrase, 'those who live on earth' may seem like an ordinary thing to us and we might be inclined to think it refers to everyone who lives on earth. But that's not true. In his commentary on Revelation, G. K. Beale tells us that this phrase,

"is a technical term throughout Revelation for unbelieving idolaters, who suffer under various forms of retributive tribulation…"



This isn't obvious from some of our English translations because sometimes they'll translate the Greek phrase in different ways. But the same Greek phrase is used in various places in Revelation and it always refers to God's enemies. Perhaps the best way of thinking of the term is that of 'earth-dwellers'.

For example, in Revelation 6:10 it's on the lips of the Christians who have been slain because of the Word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They said,

"How long, Sovereign Lord,
holy and true, until you judge
the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?"

In Revelation 11:10 we have another reference to the earth dwellers. After God's two witnesses are killed, we read,

"The inhabitants of the earth will gloat
over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts,"

In Revelation 13:8, 12 it's used of those who worship the first beast, the beast out of the sea. And in Revelation 13:13–14 we read about the second beast, the beast from the earth. It says,

"And he performed great and miraculous signs,
even causing fire to come down
from heaven to earth in full view of men.
Because of the signs he was given
power to do on behalf of the first beast,
he deceived the inhabitants of the earth.
He ordered them to set up an image
in honor of the beast who was wounded
by the sword and yet lived."

Revelation 17:8 says,

"The inhabitants of the earth
whose names have not been written
in the book of life from the creation
of the world will be astonished when they see the beast,
because he once was, now is not, and yet will come."

Thus the phrase 'the inhabitants of the earth' is a technical term for the enemies of Christ. The hour of trial that will come, comes against them. It is not directed at Christians.

In light of this

some Christians take our text to refer to the rapture.

Christians who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, see in this verse a confirmation of their view. They believe God is going to keep Christians from the hour of trial by taking them out of the world before it happens. That's one possible way of understanding the text here.

But the parallel between our text and John 17:15 weighs against that understanding. John 17:15 is the only other place where the Greek word translated 'keep' is used with the preposition 'from' in the New Testament. Christians are going to be kept from something. In John 17:15 Jesus prayed to the Father and said,

"My prayer is not that you take them
out of the world but that you
protect [keep] them from the evil one."

Jesus quite clearly meant that His people were not going to be taken out of the world—but were going to be protected from Satan in the world.

Thus the most likely meaning of our text is not that Jesus is going to take Christians out of the world and save them from the great tribulation, but that He is going to keep them, protect them, in that hour of trial.

Indeed, there are indications in Revelation that Christians will go through this great tribulation.

It is likely that many of the judgments pictured to us in Revelation refer to the judgments of the last hour. Robert H. Mounce writes, (Revelation (NICNT; p. 103)

"In fact, all the judgments from 6:1 on relate to this final hour of trial."



For example, consider the end of chapter 6. When the fifth seal is opened John saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and their testimony. They asked how long before God judged the earth and avenged their blood. They were told to wait a little longer— (Revelation 6:11)

"until the number of their fellow servants
and brothers who were to be killed
as they had been was completed."

What follows in the sixth seal seems to be the hour of trial—and the implication is that Christians are living and being killed during it. When Jesus opened the sixth seal, we read, (verses 12–17)

"I watched as he opened the sixth seal.
There was a great earthquake.
The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair,
the whole moon turned blood red,
and the stars in the sky fell to earth,
as late figs drop from a fig tree
when shaken by a strong wind.
The sky receded like a scroll,
rolling up, and every mountain and island
was removed from its place.
Then the kings of the earth,
the princes, the generals, the rich,
the mighty, and every slave and every free man
hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.
They called to the mountains and the rocks,
Fall on us and hide us from the face of him
who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!
For the great day of their wrath has come,
and who can stand?"

Then in chapter 7 we read how the four angels who have been given power to harm the land and the sea, we told to wait until the saints had been sealed on their foreheads. This shows that Christians are going to be living when the great hour of trial comes.

So it seems that Christians will be on the earth when it undergoes great and horrible times. They will not be taken from the earth before they come.

But the great question is—

How will we be protected?

Grant Osborne writes, (p. 193-194)

"As Thomas (1992: 286) asks… 'What good does it do to be preserved from the physical consequences of divine wrath and still fall prey to a martyr's death?'



That may very well happen. But one of the main things we should understand is that the sufferings of Christians will be totally different than the sufferings of God's enemies.

Christians will be protected from God's wrath.

We will be protected from the destructive effects of the wrath that is coming. We will also be ultimately protected from the harmful effects of Satan's wrath.

Let me explain.
When God's wrath is poured out on unbelievers they will no doubt turn on Christians with a vengeance. Revelation 12:12 tells us that one of the results of Satan being cast out of heaven is that he is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short. Revelation 12:17 tells us that he is enraged at the woman and is involved in warfare against her offspring. When the end comes for unbelievers—they will turn against the church with increased fury.

But the trials that Christians endure will not ultimately be destructive for them.

The hour of trial that comes on the idolaters, the enemies of God will be terrible and destructive. We see this in 2 Thessalonians 1:6–10 which says,

"God is just: He will pay back trouble
to those who trouble you and give relief
to you who are troubled,
and to us as well.
This will happen when the Lord Jesus
is revealed from heaven in blazing fire
with his powerful angels.
He will punish those who do not
know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
They will be punished with everlasting destruction
and shut out from the presence of the Lord
and from the majesty of his power
on the day he comes to be glorified
in his holy people and to be marveled at
among all those who have believed."

The terror they will undergo will be unbearable. To quote from Revelation 6:16–17 again, they will cry out,

"Fall on us and hide us from the face of him
who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!
For the great day of their wrath has come,
and who can stand?"

There won't be any silver lining for them. They will not learn. They will not repent. Indeed, their reaction will be to rail against God.

Chapter 16 of Revelation describes the pouring out of the
seven bowls of God's wrath. There are two things to note about that chapter. First, the bowls of God's wrath only effect the ungodly. These bowls do not harm the saints. We see this clearly in the first bowl of God's wrath. Verse 2 reads,

"The first angel went
and poured out his bowl on the land,
and ugly and painful sores broke out
on the people who had
the mark of the beast
and worshiped his image."

They are not poured out on Christians—only on those who have the mark of the beast.

Secondly, the effect of the bowls of God's wrath is that the people not only refuse to repent, but they turn away from God even more and end up cursing Him. Typical is the fifth bowl of God's wrath. We read, (Revelation 16:10–11)

"The fifth angel poured out his bowl
on the throne of the beast,
and his kingdom was plunged into darkness.
Men gnawed their tongues in agony
and cursed the God of heaven
because of their pains and their sores,
but they refused to repent
of what they had done."

Those punishments are totally destructive. They don't lead to repentance. The people that undergo them harden their hearts and have great hatred for God. They curse Him. Their punishment is totally destructive.

The effects of the sufferings that Christians endure are totally different.

They are not like that at all. It's not destructive. It doesn't take us away from God. It draws us nearer to Him. You'll remember when Stephen was dying he asked Jesus to receive his spirit—and Jesus did. Satan wants to destroy us—but he cannot. We are spiritually protected. The wrath of Satan that we endure does not destroy us. It does not take us away from God. For a Christian, suffering is not destructive. What we undergo is not part of God's wrath that is destructive.

Rather,

For a Christian, suffering is part of Christ's victory.

Grant Osborne writes, (Revelation, p. 193-194)

"In Revelation martyrdom is seen as a victory over Satan, not a defeat (6:9-11; 7:14-17; 12:11). As when he put Christ on the cross, Satan defeats himself whenever he takes the life of one of the saints."



We see this in Jesus' words about Peter's death. Jesus told Peter that Peter would die by crucifixion. In John 22:19 we read,

"Jesus said this to indicate
the kind of death by which
Peter would glorify God."

God is glorified in the suffering and death of Christians. Our deaths in the midst of persecution are not futile, meaningless. Quite the contrary, they result in glory, honor and praise to God.

Not only that, for a Christian,

suffering is something that God uses to make us like Him.

In Hebrews 12:10 we read,

"Our fathers disciplined us for a little
while as they thought best;
but God disciplines us for our good,
that we may share in his holiness."

Or, to go back to the Old Testament background of our text, Daniel 12:10 says of that great hour of suffering,

"Many will be purified,
made spotless and refined…"

Suffering is something we can rejoice in, as we read in 1 Peter 4:13–16

"But rejoice that you participate
in the sufferings of Christ,
so that you may be overjoyed
when his glory is revealed."

We can rejoice because we know that in it God is working for our good. As we read in Romans 8:28,

"And we know that in all things
God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose."

We can rejoice because we know that Jesus is with us and will deliver us and bring us to glory. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:17,

"For our light and momentary troubles
are achieving for us an eternal glory
that far outweighs them all."

We are safe even during the hour of trial that comes upon the whole earth. God will safely bring us to His Father. We may suffer greatly—but we are protected.

This is because

Jesus will be with us in those trials.

Jesus is the One that gives us this promise. He will be there keeping us. In Hebrews 13:5 God said to His people,

"Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you."

When you are in trouble you may not see God's protection over you. You may not feel it. But it is there.

Let me illustrate. When I worked as a stevedore, we sometimes had to catch the lines of ships that were docking. One night our gang was called to catch the lines for a certain ship. It was one of the foggiest night I have ever seen. The old saying about fog like that was that it was so thick that you could cut it with a knife. We had to go out on several walkways over the water. But you couldn't see the end of the walkways. These walkways connected little concrete islands that you tied up one side of the ship. This particular night you couldn't see anything. I'm not sure what the visibility was—perhaps it was 10 feet or so. We were waiting for the ship wondering how he was going to find the dock. There was no sign of the ship. It didn't seem to be anywhere near us. I remember how startled we were when the ship blew its fog horn. The ship was right on top of us and we still couldn't see it. It was unbelievably near. Yet we couldn't see anything except the fog. And then suddenly—there was this wall of steel—the side of the ship—right next to us, just feet away.

Jesus is always with us. He will never leave us, never forsake us.

The church is in danger. We face the fury of Satan. Yet, even though we face the fury of Satan, we are safe. God keeps us. He protects us. So, too, near the end of time, the people of God will be kept safe. God's judgment is going to fall on 'those who live on earth' and it may seem that Christians suffer in the same way as the wicked. But that will not be.

You'll recall the
Parable of the Wheat and Tares. In Matthew 13:24–30 we read how weeds were found growing in the farmers garden, right along with the wheat. The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' But he said,

"No, because while you are pulling
the weeds, you may root up
the wheat with them.
Let both grow together until the harvest.
At that time I will tell the harvesters:
First collect the weeds and tie them
in bundles to be burned;
then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn."

The harvest will be traumatic. Nothing like it has ever been seen before. But there is going to be a great distinction made during that hour of tribulation. God's people are going to be protected in a spiritual, ultimate way. They will have been sealed. That means that they will be safe. As the Old Testament background for our text reads, (Daniel 12:1)

"At that time Michael, the great prince who
protects your people, will arise.
There will be a time of distress such
as has not happened from
the beginning of nations until then.
But at that time your people—
everyone whose name is found written
in the book—will be delivered."

We will be delivered. We will be brought by Jesus to glory.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, what this means for you is that

you'd better get right with Jesus right away.

The hour of trial is coming and in that hour there will be no repentance, no turning to Jesus. Rather it will be the beginning of eternal punishment. That will be the beginning of the penal, destructive punishment for those not in Jesus. Turn to Him before it's too late. Go to Jesus now.