Saturday, July 2, 2022

What God Has Said About Three Groups and the Tribulation

by James C. Morris – 

The first group we need to consider is found in Revelation 3:10, where the church is promised, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” This promise is not limited to overcomers, but is given to the entire church. For the overcomers are not mentioned until two verses later, in Revelation 3:12.

The Greek word translated from in this verse is εκ, ek in our alphabet, word number 1537 in Strong’s Greek Dictionary. This Greek word indeed means from, but in the sense of away from or out of. Some imagine that this only means out of the “hour of trial” after having been in it. But in this phrase, that interpretation is excluded by the word “keep.” In the Greek, this word is τηρησσω, teresso in our alphabet, a future form of the Greek word τηρηο, tereo in our alphabet, word number 5083 in Strong’s Greek Dictionary. This Greek word literally means to guard, but in the scriptures was usually used in the sense of our English word keep, and is so translated more than two-thirds of the times it occurs in the Greek text of the New Testament. So it is clear that the real meaning of this promise is to be kept out of “the hour of trial.”

But there is a second group we need to consider in regard to this period of time. In Revelation 6:9-11, we read, “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.”

There are several things we need to notice about this group. First, they are not seen as among the general population in heaven, but instead are seen in a special compartment, which is called “under the altar.” Second, they are not yet resurrected, for they are only seen as “souls.” But third, and this is highly important. They have a totally unchristian attitude of desiring vengeance upon those who had killed them. This is explicitly contrary to our Lord’s instructions to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) And to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.” (Luke 6:27-28) It is also contrary to the example our Lord gave us as He was being crucified, praying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do,” (Luke 23:34) and to the example of Stephen, the first martyr of Jesus, who, as he was dying, “cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ ” (Acts 7:60) And finally, it is contrary to the example of the Apostles, who, “Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat.” (1 Corinthians 4:12-13)

These souls are unquestionably righteous, for they are in heaven. But their attitude is clearly contrary to the attitude we are instructed to have toward our persecutors. Yet, rather than being reproved for this attitude. They are only comforted, and told to “rest a little while longer,” and “a white robe was given to each of them.” The fact that these are in a special place in heaven, and that their attitude, though not reproved, is not Christian, shows that this group is not the church. That is, this is a different group from the first group we considered.

We see this group again one chapter later in Revelation 7:9, after all but the last seal had been opened, when John saw “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” Then, a few verses later, we read, “ Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?’ And I said to him, ‘Sir, you know." So he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ ” (Revelation 7:13-14) In Revelation 6:11 they had each been given white robes. And in this passage they are seen wearing them.

Again, in this passage the words “come out of” are a translation of the Greek words ερχομενοι εκ. We have already seen the meaning of the Greek word εκ. In Revelation 3:10, the Greek word τηρησσω, teresso in our alphabet, excludes the possibility of εκ meaning out of in the sense of having first been in it. But in this passage, the Greek word τηρησσω is replaced with the Greek word ερχομενοι, erchomenoi in our alphabet. This is a present form of the Greek word ερχομαι, erchomai in out alphabet, word number 2064 in Strong’s Greek Dictionary, which means to come or go, in a great variety of applications. So while the first group we considered was promised that “I will keep you” (out of) “the hour of trial.” this group will “come out of the great tribulation.” This again shows this group to be a different group from the first one we considered.

And there is a third group we need to consider. This group is found in Jeremiah 30:6-7, where the Lord said to Israel, “Ask now, and see, Whether a man is ever in labor with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins Like a woman in labor, And all faces turned pale? Alas! For that day is great, So that none is like it; And it is the time of Jacob's trouble, But he shall be saved out of it.” In this case, the Hebrew word translated saved is יָשע, yasha’ in our alphabet, word number 3467 in Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary. This Hebrew word means saved in the sense of succor. In the KJV, this Hebrew word is rendered save 149 times, deliver 13 times, help 12 times, and once as rescue. We notice this to clearly understand that this Hebrew word carries an entirely different sense from the Greek word tereo used in Revelation 3:10. In this case, the Lord promised to help some of His own get through a time of trouble designed for themselves. While the first group we considered was promised to be kept out of a time of testing designed for others.

So why are these three groups treated so differently? Why is one group promised, “I will keep you” (out of) this time, while another group will “come out of” the same time, and yet third group is promsed to be aided through this time?

In 1 Thessalonians 4:17, the church will be “caught up together” with the resurrected saints “to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” But after this time, the Lord will cause many more to turn to Himself. We read of “two witnesses” in Revelation 11:3-11, and if “one hundred and forty four thousand” following the Lamb in Revelation 14:1-5, and of “a voice from heaven” warning people in Revelation 18:4. So God will still be converting new believers throughout the tribulation period. But these, having missed “the rapture,” will have to go through “the great tribulation.”

Likewise, the elect of Israel, whom we sometimes call, “the righteous remnant of Israel,” are treated differently because they will not be converted until after the Lord returns. We see this in Zechariah 13:6, where we read, “And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” (Zechariah 13:6 KJV) we notice that the word “one” is in italics, because it is not in the Hebrew text. It is not just that someone will say this, but that this will be their reaction. They will clearly understand that He is the great Messiah that they had been awaiting for such a very long time. But when they see Him, they will be perplexed to see the wounds in His hands. And when they suddenly realize that their great, long awaited, Messiah, is none other than that same Jesus whose name they had so long despised:

They will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. And the land shall mourn, every family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of Shimei by itself, and their wives by themselves; all the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves.” (Zechariah 12:10-14)

So this repentant mourning will not take place until after the Lord has come, when the tribulation is over. And that is why this group is only promised that they will be “saved out of” “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” instead of being promised that “I will keep you” (out of) “the hour of trial.”

This is just another demonstration of the fact that, to really understand Bible prophecy, it is critical to pay careful attention to the fine details of the wording of each prophecy. For these details show us who is being discussed, what is going to happen to them, when it will happen, relative to other events prophesied for the end times, and sometimes, even where it will happen.

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