Is The Church In The Tribulation?

By The Centurion, PhD candidate to Louisiana Baptist University
Excerpt from Dissertation

“And I also will keep you from the hour of trial…”

Few discussions erupt into fireworks quicker than Christianity’s opposing views of whether or not the church is present in any or all of the seven-year tribulation – the 70th week of Daniel (Daniel 9:27, 12:1). The problem that arises is one of interpretation based on the use of language. If one uses a normal literal use of language to interpret Scripture, basic dispensations unfold revealing a premillennial return of Christ and a pretribulation rapture of the church. However, when one uses an allegorical approach to interpret Scripture, the notion of the “kingdom now” is allowed to surface which has the church replacing Israel and becoming a dominant presence in the tribulation as the main antagonist against Satan as the world is judged by the Lamb of God. Adherents of both the amillennial and the postmillennial view use the term “millennial” very loosely to describe the kingdom now position that they believe Christendom is currently in. Both views do incorporate a short period of tribulation before Christ’s return but a rapture of the church as such is not included.

However, in 1 Corinthians 15:35-58, the Apostle Paul reveals that at an appropriate time, imminent without warning, “in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet… the dead will rise first incorruptible and we who are alive shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (verses 52 and 53). Described in these 24 verses is the rapture of the church. There is no question that at some point in time the Church (true believers) will be translated – raptured – into their immortal bodies to be with the Lord forever. The question is not if but when, or the timing of the rapture.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, Paul reiterates this rapture promise in near identical language with verse 18 concluding, “Therefore, comfort one another with these words.” There is little comfort to be given to the church if it is doomed to endure the judgments of the tribulation. Paul states this in verse 9 of chapter 5, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In verse 11, Paul again concludes by exhorting us to comfort and edify one another.

Perhaps the most direct and concise expression of a pretribulation rapture, which uses a normal literal use of language both in Greek and the translated English, is seen in Christ’s promise to the church of Philadelphia found in Revelation 3:10. Below are three phrases of this verse parsed in the Greek- English translation:¹
• Phrase one: (kago se thrhsw ejk thß w{raß tou peirasmou” “And I also will keep you from the hour of trial…”
• Phrase two: ‘thß melloushß e›rcesqai ejpi thß ojikoumenhß o{lhß” “…which is about to come upon the whole inhabited earth…”
• Phrase three (ending phrase): (pirasai touß katoikontaß e˙pi thß ghß) “…to test those that dwell on the earth.”

The phrase one has two “restrictors.”

1) The word combination thrhsw ejk means keep from or keep out of. thrhsw is the verb to keep and the preposition ejk, when used with the genitive, means from or out of a place, origin, or source.² Therefore, its meaning is keep from or out of, and tou peirasmou means the trial.

2) However, when ek is used in conjunction with the hour (thß w{raß), it further modifies and restricts a presence factor during the trial that not only keeps one from or out of the trial, but in addition, also keeps one from or out of the hour of the trial. In other words, one’s presence during the hour of trial is not possible. Here is the roughly parsed Greek to English translation: kago (And I), se thrhsw ejk (will keep you from or out of), thß w{raß (the hour), tou peirasmou (of the trial). This promise is proclaimed in the simple future tense. No “wink and a nod” mysterious translation of the Greek is called for. Dr. Tony Garland succinctly explains, “[T]he answer…is found by reading the promise more carefully, for the promise is not to be kept from the trial, but from the hour of the trial. The church will not even experience the trial for it will be kept from the hour when the trial is visited upon the earth” (emphasis original).³

If the Lord’s promise to His Church is one of safe haven through not total absence from the tribulation, then He would have had the Apostle John use the Greek preposition “dia” (dia, as in diameter) which means through. Or, as Dr. Chafer notes, the Lord could have had John also write “en th wÓra” to clarify He meant preservation in the hour, but instead He had John write “ek thß wÔraß” meaning out or from the hour.⁴ Remember, John is receiving direct dictation from the Lord Himself. There are no accidents or mistakes.

Yet, persuasive amillennial scholars invariably try to convince their students and congregations that the simple future tense meaning of the Lord’s promise to His true Church is one of safe haven through, not total absence from the time of trial. Case in point is Princeton PhD William Hendriksen who, in his work More than Conquerors, attempts an allegorical sleight of hand that has the 144,000 Jews from the twelve tribes of Israel, sealed for protection (Revelation 7:3-8), as the allegorized “protected” church in pitched battle against Satan and his minions. Soon his theme becomes absurd when he starts to mix Old Testament prophetic passages with portions of Revelation 12 that has Christ bearing the church on eagle’s wings to a safe haven where a place is prepared for them to be nourished by the “manna” of the Word.⁵

Herein lies the “bugaboo.” The sticking point is the Jewish disconnect. Despite the fact that Revelation 7:3-8 in plain language specifically describes the 144,000 as Jews from the twelve tribes of Israel, the amillennial view totally disregards this Jewish connection and allegorizes these six verses to be the church. This “non-Semitic” theme continues throughout the rest of the book of Revelation and is the reason why amillennialism tries to find hermeneutical “wiggle room” with its allegorical exegetics of a straightforward promise made in plain normal language in Revelation 3:10.

This brings up the phrase two in Revelation 3:10 which in itself is the third restrictor, “…which is about to come upon the whole inhabited earth.” thß melloushß (which is about) e›rcesqai (to come) ejpi (upon) thß ojikoumenhß o{lhß” (the whole inhabited earth). If the Church is going to be kept from the trial; and importantly, kept from the hour of the trial; and further this trial is to cover the entire (whole) earth, then there is absolutely no time or place on earth for the Church to exist during the tribulation.

The phrase three that completes the verse, “…to test those that dwell on the earth.” pirasai (to test) touß katoikontaß (those who dwell) e˙pi thß ghß (upon the earth) actually modifies the previous phrase (“which is about to come upon the whole inhabited earth”). By using ghß (earth, surface of the earth, world)₆ in conjunction with touß katoikontaß e˙pi (those who dwell upon) gives a different broader geographic perspective of earthly habitation (Isaiah 26:21, John 15:19, Matthew 5:13-14) which is less likely to be construed as a locale or region as might be “misconstrued” by the use of ojikoumenhß. Most amillennial commentators avoid this point. All of this is not difficult to comprehend unless one is trapped in fifth century patristic church amillennial thinking.


1 The NKJV Greek English Interlinear New Testament, 1994.

2 William Mounce, The Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993), 168.

3 Tony Garland, A Testimony of Jesus Christ, vol.1 (Camano Island, WA: Spirit of Truth.org, 2004), 262.

4 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1976), 370.

5 William Hendriksen, More than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 142.

6 Mounce, 125.