Revelation 3:10 in the New King James Version reads:
“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 article argues for a change in punctuation. Misplaced periods and commas have hopelessly confused the meaning of Jesus’ words.
II. TWO FALSE VIEWS
Incorrect punctuation has led some to view Rev 3:10 as Jesus promising that He will rapture the Philadephians because they were exceptionally faithful. Anyone less faithful than the Philadelphians might be left behind. Puritan Dispensationalists brand such as unbelievers. Partial Rapturists contend that Jesus will leave unfaithful believers behind.
The Puritan-Dispensational view affirms the pre-tribulation rapture, but denies the possibility of a straying believer. Consider John MacArthur’s view of the passage. After quoting the verse, he states:
“That, dear friends, is a pre-tribulational Rapture verse. You’ve kept My Word, You’re Mine. I will keep you from the hour of testing”2 (emphasis mine).
What about people whose faithfulness is less than that of the Philadelphians? His Puritan theology yields the following converse (by adding not to each of his propositions):
You’ve not kept My Word; You’re not Mine. I will not keep you from the hour of testing.
MacArthur rightly sees the rapture as promised to all believers. He wrongly imagines that all true believers will persevere to the end.
By contrast, Robert Govett, a partial rapturist, rightly acknowledges that unfaithful Christians exist. Unfortunately, he denies (from Rev 3:10) that these eternally-secure believers would be raptured:
“The hour of temptation” specially begins with the apostasy, and attains its full tide under the Man of Sin. The present rapture must therefore be before his revelation. It [Rev 3:10] is a promise, not to all the church, but to a certain clearly-defined portion of it—those who keep the doctrine of Christ’s second advent, and its hope of rapture.3
Both Puritan Dispensationalists and Partial Rapturists agree that in order to be raptured, one must be faithful. Does this verse teach this?
III. DISCOVERING ANOTHER PUNCTUATION OPTION
Some, including Zane Hodges, solve this by denying any link between Rev 3:10 and the rapture. He viewed the hour of trial as an unspecified first-century empire-wide trial.4 The usual punctuation leaves few options for grace-period pre-tribulation-rapturists. However, would we not expect directly affecting Asia Minor—as part of the whole inhabited world (oikoumenē)—to be identifiable today?
Soon after my conversation with Hodges, while reading Rev 3:9-10 in an English Bible, two words (the last of v 9 and the first of v 10) caught my attention: “…you. Because…” Verse 9 ends with a period, so 3:10a starts a new sentence with “Because.” The NKJV reads:
“Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. 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” (emphasis mine).
This brought back memories of my seventh-grade English teacher, Miss Duncan. She said: “The word because should follow the independent clause, not precede it.” Ever since, my writing has avoided starting sentences with Because. I also noticed through the years that few sentences in the NT start with initial “Because.” That led me to ask, “What if John intended vv 9-10a as the first sentence and 10b as the second?” If so, the NKJV would read:
“Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you, 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” (emphasis mine).
The first sentence would end with persevere, not you. The second sentence now starts with I, not Because. These changes make contextual sense, so the question is: Which is right? Features within Rev 3:7-13 argue for re-punctuation. This article will now validate this view.
IV. NAMING THE TWO VIEWS
The usual view starts v 10 with “Because,” seeing it as one sentence. Because they were faithful, Jesus promises to rapture them.5 This view’s name starts with a capitalized Because, matching the default rendering of 3:10:
Because of Philadelphian faithfulness, promise of rapture.
By contrast, my re-punctuated sentence links vv 9 and 10a. Jesus promises vindication in the near-term before Satan’s synagogue, because the Philadelphian church was faithful. The word “because” appears mid-title, as in the re-punctuated sentence (9-10a).
Near-term vindication because of Philadelphian faithfulness.
Simply put, does the faithfulness of the believers at Philadelphia result in a future deliverance at the rapture, or does it result in some type of vindication in the first century?
V. FAITHFULNESS LEADING TO RAPTURE OR NEAR-TERM VINDICATION?
Five issues validate the near-term-vindication view of Revelation 3:9-10a:
A. Causal hoti (“because/Because”) rarely starts sentences.
B. Kagō (“and I”) most naturally links 3:10b with 3:8-9’s first-person verbs.
C. Keeping His word (3:10a) continues 3:8-9, while deliverance (3:10b) changes topics.
D. 3:10b cannot be both a specific and a general promise.
E. Jesus does manifest special love for faithfulness.
A. Causal Hoti (“because/Because”) Rarely Starts Sentences
The usual view of Rev 3:10 employs a suspensive use of causal hoti (because/Because). A child trying to rationalize misbehavior may string a series of clauses starting with “because” in order to postpone admitting guilt as long as possible. Such postponement of an independent clause holds it in suspense (hence, the name suspensive).
“Because of ‘a’ and because of ‘b’ and because of ‘c’ and because of ‘d’ and because of ‘e,’ you would not want me to follow the letter of the rule, so I…”
Both English and Greek rarely place causal subordinate clauses before independent clauses. I found only four writers who discuss its usage in Greek: Nigel Turner, Edwin Abbott, David Aune, and Leon Morris.6
After saying, “Normally the dependent clause follows the main clause,”7 Nigel Turner has only one sentence about suspensive hoti: “Hoti (causal) is post-positive [non-suspensive] 397 times, and the only exceptions are as follows: Lk 1917 Jn 150 (a question) 845 (1419?) 1519 166 2029 (a question) Ro 97 Ga 46 Rev 310. 16 187.”8 Turner capitalizes “Because” for hoti eleven (or twelve) times of 409 (397 post-positive; 12 pre-positive).9 That is less than 3%.
Edwin Abbott’s Johannine Grammar lists John 1:50; 8:45; 14:19; 15:19; 16:6; 20:29; Rom 9:7; 1 Cor 12:15f; Gal 4:6; Rev 3:10; 18:7.10 These twelve pre-positive (suspensive) uses are less than 3%. Abbott mentions the punctuation option, but (oddly) he claims that John’s style is against it. Only nine of his uses are from John’s writings. My statistics show that John’s writings have 178 causal uses of hoti in the Majority Text (whether suspensive or non-suspensive).11 Nine of 178 uses is 5%. Ninety-five percent of John’s causal uses weigh against Abbott’s claim. How can he imagine that statistics favor his view?
David Aune, Revelation, mentions the rarity of pre-position (suspensive) hoti:
The hoti clause that begins the sentence is in an unusual position, since in the vast majority of instances dependent clauses follow the main clause (other examples of hoti clauses in the pre-position [besides Rev 3:10] are found in Rev 3:16; 18:7; See Turner, Syntax, 345).12
Leon Morris realizes that re-punctuation is possible, but he did not know how to prove which meaning Jesus intended:
Since introduces the reason, but grammatically it might be the reason for the preceding (the triumph of the Philadelphians over them of Satan’s synagogue), or the following (Christ’s keeping them in the hour of temptation). There seems no way of deciding the point (emphasis mine).13
Combining Turner and Abbott’s references only offers fourteen possible uses. Miss Duncan’s admonition in seventh-grade English primed me to note that a capitalized Because is rare in English Bibles. Rarity does not disprove the usual view, but raises questions. This article will now focus on four issues establishing a need for repunctuation.
B. Kagō (“and I”) Most Naturally Links 3:10b’s with 3:8-9’s First-Person Verbs
A crucial feature of the passage is the series of first-person verbs. Kagō (and I) in v 10b (under the new punctuation) links these verbs:
- I know (oida) your works (3:8a);
- I have given (dedōka) before you an opened door (3:8b);
- I give (didōmi) those of Satan’s synagogue [to…bow down…] (3:9a);
- I will make (poiēsō) them come… (3:9b);
- and I (kagō) will keep (tēreō) you from the hour (3:10b).
Verse 10b culminates a series of first-person verbs: “I know… I have given… I give… I will make… and I will keep…” This flow makes sense of the kagō (and I) in 3:10b.
Thus, the kagō is a signpost linking two sentences. It joins the first sentence (3:9-10a) with 3:10b. A signpost kai (kagō = kai egō) starts the sentence, rather than being buried in the middle. The usual translation unexpectedly isolates the kagō. As a signpost, the translation of kagō should be And I (linking the first-person verbs), not I also.
“I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door…Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan…indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you, because you have kept My command to persevere. And I will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (emphasis mine).
Those defending the usual punctuation must explain the and in the middle of v 10. The And I (kagō) would be child’s play (under the traditional punctuation), if John had reversed the order of 10a and 10b (as below):
“[10b] And I will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth, [10a] because you have kept My command to persevere.”
And I should start the new sentence (10b). In the Near-term vindication, because of Philadelphian faithfulness model, it does:
“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.”
Readers of unpunctuated early-manuscripts looked for signposts like kagō (v 10b) to signal new sentences. Thus, Rev 3:9-10a is one sentence and 3:10b is another. The first sentence teaches Near-term vindication, because of Philadelphian faithfulness. The second reiterates an unconditional truth: no Church-Age believer will enter Daniel’s seventieth week (however, the verse does not specify how the first-century Philadelphians would be delivered).14
Revelation 3:10b is not a rapture-passage, per se. Jesus only mentions here the fact of deliverance, not the means of escape. What kept the first-century Philadelphians from entering Daniel’s seventieth week? They died. Revelation 3:10b does not refer specifically to the rapture.
Revelation 3:8-10a explains that the Lord vindicated the Philadelphians because of their faithfulness. By contrast, Revelation 3:10b reiterates an unconditional truth: No Church-Age believer will enter the tribulation. It does not specify how they would escape entrance into that hour. For all but the Church’s final generation, physical death is what prevents entering the hour, not the rapture.
C. Keeping His Word (3:10a) Continues 3:8-9; Deliverance (3:10b) Changes Topics
The word tēreō (to keep) appears three times in Rev 3:7-13. The first two speak of obedience, while the third discusses deliverance:
- You have kept My word [faithfulness] (3:8);
- You have kept the word of My perseverance [faithfulness] (3:10a); and
- I will keep you from the hour [deliverance]… (3:10b).
Although two uses of tēreō (to keep) appear in v 10, their meanings are distinct. By contrast, vv 8 and 10a both focus upon keeping Jesus’ word (faithfulness). The bond between v 8 and v 10a is much stronger than between 3:10a and 10b, as the brackets illustrate. Over-emphasis of a nebulous linkage between 3:10a and 10b seems to be the main rationale for mashing 10a and 10b into one sentence.
D. 3:10b Cannot Be Both a Specific and a General Promise
Aune argues that the promise applied exclusively to the first-century Philadelphians. He asserts:
…the promise made here pertains to the Philadelphian Christians only and cannot be generalized to include Christians in other churches of Asia, much less all Christians in all places and times15 (emphasis in original).
Aune is to be saluted for not generalizing you beyond the first-century Philadelphians. They are the ones Jesus promised deliverance here. Under the corrected punctuation, v 10b is a complete sentence. Jesus unconditionally promises:
“And I will keep you from the hour.”
This harmonizes with other passages promising that no Church-Age believer will enter Daniel’s seventieth week. Aune is right. The promise here cannot be generalized beyond the first-century Philadelphians.
However, Aune missed a crucial detail. Revelation 3:10b does not specify the means of deliverance. It uses no rapture-specific language. Physical death spared them and all generations up to the present from entering the hour. First Thessalonians 5:9 promises that the rapture will prevent one generation of believers from entering the time of wrath (Daniel’s seventieth week).16 Though the Rev 3:10b promise does not extend beyond first-century Philadelphia, 1 Thess 5:9 does.
Similarly, Schuyler Brown surfaces a conundrum for the Because of Philadelphian faithfulness, future deliverance view. The following models his argument:
Special faithfulness would logically lead to a special promise, but the special faithfulness of Rev 3:10a is met merely by a promise in 3:10b that does not seem unique.
This is how Brown says it:
If the promise is understood this way [as protecting believers on earth during the tribulation],17 then we must grant Bousset18 his objection that the Philadelphians are promised nothing that pertains specially to them.19
Under the traditional punctuation, only the partial-rapture view or that of Zane Hodges surmounts the objections of Brown and Bousset. Those views perceive a special promise offered to those characterized by special faithfulness.20
How is it that the near-term vindication, because of Philadelphian faithfulness view escapes this conundrum? The special Philadelphian faithfulness (3:10a) leads to Jesus promising special vindication before Satan’s synagogue (3:8f). Brown and Bousset pose a problem that applies exclusively to views that embrace the traditional punctuation. If verse 10 were a complete sentence, the special faithfulness (3:10a) would underlie the 3:10b promise. Bousset and Brown surface an Achilles’ heel for the Because of Philadelphian faithfulness, promise of rapture views (other than for partial rapturists).
E. Jesus Does Manifest Special Love for Faithfulness
The Because of Philadelphian faithfulness, future deliverance punctuation allows two options concerning Jesus’ love for the Philadelphians. Consider v 9 as if it were a self-contained sentence:
Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.
Is it the same love that Jesus has for all believers, even the naughty Corinthians? Or is it a special love for especially faithful believers? In light of the Brown/Bousset argument (that special faithfulness logically leads to a special promise), it seems reasonable that 3:9 refers to a special love that Jesus has for faithful believers.
“Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you, because you have kept My command to persevere” (emphasis mine).
Under this model, Jesus wants Satan’s synagogue to know that He has a very special love that arises because of the Philadelphian faithfulness under persecution. Note what Jesus also told the Eleven in John 14:21, 23; and 15:14 in the NKJV:
“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).
“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23b).
“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14).
The special love that Jesus had for the Philadelphians (because of their faithfulness) recommends itself as what Satan’s synagogue needed to see.
Five issues support the near-term vindication, because of Philadelphian faithfulness view:
- Hoti, when translated because/Because, rarely starts a sentence.
- 3:10b’s kagō (and I) most naturally links the first-person verbs of 3:8-9 with 10b, not 10a with 10b.
- Keeping His word (v 10a) continues 3:8-9 (keeping His word); deliverance (3:10b) is a new topic.
- 3:10b cannot be both a specific and a general promise, and
- Other Scriptures teach that Jesus manifests special love for faithfulness.
Miss Duncan’s English class primed me to notice that a capitalized Because is rare (3% of the causal uses of hoti for the NT; 5% in John’s writings). In cases where either a rare or a common usage would make sense, exegetes should not unquestioningly assume that the rare usage is correct. Treating Rev 3:10 as one complete sentence follows questionable grammar. Viewing Rev 3:8-10a as one sentence and 3:10b as another is much more natural.
The first word of Rev 3:10b (kagō= and I) most naturally links a series of first-person verbs: “I know (8a)… I have given (8b)…I give (9a)…I will make (9b)…and I will keep (10b)…” The traditional punctuation isolates kagō in an unnatural position, buried in the middle of a sentence between a dependent and an independent clause. Why John would do this is inexplicable.
Verses 8 and 10a use the phrase keep My word to refer to Philadelphian faithfulness, while 3:10b uses the word keep in a different way. And I will keep you from the hour speaks of deliverance. The repunctuation links the two references to faithfulness in one sentence (3:8-10a), with 10b’s promise of deliverance in another.
Aune argues that 3:10b only promises deliverance to the first-century Philadelphians. What prevented them from entering the hour of trial? The answer is physical death, not the rapture. A close examination of the passage shows that it does not use language of rapture. Aune rightly limits the promise to the first-century Philadelphians.
In a similar vein, Brown and Bousset point out that special faithfulness would logically lead to a special promise. Instead, the traditional punctuation matches a generic promise to special faithfulness. This is an Achilles heel for the usual approach. The near-term vindication, because of Philadelphian faithfulness view resolves the problem, because special faithfulness leads to a promise of great vindication before Satan’s synagogue.
Finally, it makes sense that special faithfulness would lead to a special manifestation of God’s love for the noteworthy Philadelphians (cf. John 14:21-23; 15:14). Jesus promised to make this church into an object lesson for Satan’s synagogue.
This article started by noting that mispunctuation of Rev 3:10 produces wrong interpretations by both Puritan Dispensationalists (like John MacArthur) and partial rapturists (like Robert Govett).21 MacArthur recognizes that all Church-Age believers will be raptured, but brands those Christians who do not persevere to the end as unbelievers. If MacArthur knew how to punctuate Rev 3:10 correctly, he would have one less proof-text for his Puritanism.
Partial rapturists (like Govett) recognize the existence of regenerate believers who do not persevere to the end. Unfortunately, the traditional punctuation of Rev 3:10 hinders them from recognizing that no Church-Age believer will be on earth during any part of Daniel’s seventieth week (a time of divine wrath upon earth). Repunctuating Rev 3:10 facilitates recognizing this truth in 1 Thess 5:9.
1 This is an update of my prior articles presenting this view: John Niemelä, “For You Have Kept My Word: Parts 1 and 2,” CTS Journal 6 (January 2000): 14-38; and CTS Journal 6 (October 2000): 54-68. These are available online at: http://chafer.nextmeta.com/files/v6n1_2.pdf and http://chafer.nextmeta.com/files/v6n4_4.pdf.
2 John F. MacArthur, “The Final Generation, Part 1 (Mark 13:28-37),” on Grace to You, April 3, 2011. Transcript at https://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/41-69/the-finalgeneration-part-1. Accessed August 9, 2016.
3 Robert Govett, The Saints’ Rapture to the Presence of the Lord Jesus (London: Nisbet, 1852), 310.
4 Personal conversation with Zane Hodges in 1994. In December of 2016, Lon Gregg, Spiritual Director of the Denver Rescue Mission, mentioned in a personal conversation his correspondence with Hodges about Rev 3:10. Lon Gregg’s February 21, 2002, email said, “The form of these church letters [Rev 2–3] and the immediate audience being commended [the Philadelphian church] suggests to me that the deliverance promised (‘I will also keep you from the hour of trial…’) is a reward for their praiseworthy behavior (‘since you have kept my command to endure patiently’). But isn’t this ‘hour of trial’ the tribulation period, about to be discussed in ch. 6 and following?… But if it is the Tribulation, wouldn’t Jesus be conditioning this pre-Trib deliverance on their patient endurance?” On March 15, 2002, Hodges responded, “I strongly recommend that you contact Chafer Seminary and ask for the recent articles on Rev. 3:10 by Dr. John Niemelä [see footnote 1 in this article]… In my own view, however, the ‘hour of testing’ is not a reference to the Tribulation but to the period of turmoil in the Roman world (the Greek hour here is ‘oikoumene’) following the death of Nero. But you should read the Chafer articles [See note 1.] which take the period as the Tribulation.” Hodges and I have taken different approaches here, but regard[ed] each other’s views as viable second-choices.
5 I purposely avoided narrowing this to an explicit statement of my preferred view of the rapture (pre-Daniel’s-seventieth-week), so those with different views of the rapture might take a closer look and consider repunctuation.
6 I have not done an exhaustive study of the commentary literature on passages adduced by Turner or Abbott. A few more discussions may exist. Cf. J. H. Moulton, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, vol. 3, Syntax, by N. Turner (Edinburgh: Clark, 1963), 345; E. A. Abbott, Johannine Grammar (London: Black, 1906; reprint, Farnborough, ENG, 1968), 155f ; D. E. Aune, Revelation 1–5, WBC, ed. D. A. Hubbard and G. W. Barker, vol. 52A (Dallas, TX: Word, 1997), 231, n. 10a; and L. Morris, Revelation, rev. ed., TNTC, ed. Leon Morris (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 79.
7 Turner, Syntax, 345.
9 Turner and Abbott use “pre-positive” and “post-positive,” while Aune says “preposition” and “post-position.” Aune’s terms may be clearer for many. Pre-position says that Because precedes the independent clause; in post-position because follows the independent clause.
10 Abbott, Johannine, 155f. He lists John 1:50, 8:45, 14:19, 15:91 16:6, 20:29; Rom 9:7; 1 Cor 12:15; Rev 3:10; and 18:7. He raises the non-suspensive possibility for Rev 3:10, but says that John’s style argues against it. How so? John favors non-suspensive 178 to 9 (see next footnote).
11 I find 92 in John’s Gospel, 37 in 1 John, one in 2 John, and 48 in Revelation. Cf. Niemelä, “Kept My Word: Part 1,” 18f.
12 Aune, Revelation 1–5, 231, n. 10a.
13 Morris, Revelation, 79.
14 Revelation 3:10b is a reminder, because 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, etc., set forth the pre-tribulation rapture. See Zane C. Hodges, “1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 and the Rapture,” CTS Journal 6 (October 2000): 22-35.
15 Aune, Revelation 1–5, 240.
16 Some claim that the first part of the seventieth week lacks divine wrath. However, it is Jesus who opens the seven seals (Revelation 6) at the start of that week, releasing wrath upon earth. This effectively makes Jesus the agent whose initiation brought wrath to the planet. Inescapably, the whole seven-year period is a time of God’s wrath upon earth.
17 Schuyler Brown theorizes protection within the hour as other post-tribulation rapture writers suggest. However, no first-century Philadelphian entered the hour.
18 Cf. Wilhelm Bousset, Die Offenbarung Johannis, 5th ed. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1906), 228f.
19 Schuyler Brown, “The Hour of Trial,” JBL 85 (Summer 1966): 311.
20 See sections II and III of this article. However, the partial rapture view wrongly broadens 3:10b’s promise beyond the first-century Philadelphians.
21 Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of the Servant Kings, 3rd ed. (Monument, CO: Panym Group, 2012), 389f, has a gracious review and summary of my prior articles on this topic.