I appreciate so much your willingness dear brother, so these are my questions:
1.– Acts 3:21 says “The heaven must receive Lord Jesus until the times of restoration of all things which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from acient times”
On the other hand the Lord Jesus said: “Elijah is coming and will restore all things” (Mathew 17:11)
a.– What are all those things that must be restored? b.– Does it mean that Lord Jesus will only return after the restoration of all those things? c.– Who is going to restore all things? Will this be Elijah? In this case, Elijah will be a gentile church transformed into coporate prophetic voice? If not what would be our role as gentile Church in the task of restorarion of “all things”? d.– Is this Elijah the same Two witnesses or two olive trees from Revelation 11:3-4?
2.– Revelation 3:10 refers to an “hour of test”
a.– Is this “hour of test” the same as the great tribulation? If so what does it mean “I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth.”? b.– Is there some possibility of previous rapture before the great tribulation to those “have kept the Word of His perseverance”?
Both questions are very related so that the answer to one will reflect directly on the other. I will begin with the second, because it is decisive to the question of the church’s role in the eschatological restoration, since it is clear that only a church that is present in the tribulation could possibly be an instrument of restoration during that time. But before I come to what I believe Rev 3:10 means, let me say a little about what I’m sure it cannot mean.
Whether the church can be seen in the tribulation will depend entirely on how the church is conceived and defined. Only since the advent of modern dispensationalism has the concept been introduced that the body of Christ exists only between Pentecost and a rapture that removes the church before the start of the last seven years. According to dispensationalism, the new birth does not make one a member of Christ’s body unless it happens between Pentecost and the rapture. Those born again after the presumed pre-tribulational rapture are not considered to be part of the church. They belong to another, distinct ‘people of God’.
In this view, saints persecuted under Antichrist are called, ‘tribulation saints’ in order to distinguish them from so-called, “church saints.” The rapture that is supposed to precede the tribulation is conceived as a ‘reversal of Pentecost’ (their term). Dispensationalists believe that the Holy Spirit did not begin to indwell the saints until Pentecost and that this will end with the pre-tribulation rapture. After the rapture, the Spirit continues to be crucial in the new birth. He fills and empowers (just as He did the OT saints), but He does NOT indwell tribulation saints. They are NOT regarded as members of Christ’s body, the church; nor are any who are saved in the millennium considered to be members of Christ’s body, since they too sustain a pre-Pentecostal relationship to the Holy Spirit, as merely ‘with’ but not ‘in’ the believer. In short, the pre-tribulation rapture amounts to a retraction of Pentecost where the Spirit’s indwelling is concerned, since He is not considered to indwell believers either before Pentecost or after the rapture.
This view is built up according to dispensationalism’s interpretation of such texts as Jn 7:39 (“for the Holy Spirit was not yet given”); Jn 14:17 (“for He dwells with you and will be in you”); see also Acts 11:15 with 1Cor 12:13). Yet, the church is distinguished as the church by its advance reception of the very promise that is yet to come to the penitent remnant of Israel at the day of the Lord (Joel 2:1-2, 28-31; Isa 32:15-18; Eze 39:29; Zech 12:10; Acts 2:16-20). Will post-tribulational Israel be any less baptized, filled, and also indwelt by the Spirit than the church of this age? Are we to suppose that He will merely ‘come upon’ or be ‘with’ millennial Israel, and not also indwell them? How can the special gift of the Spirit that came at Pentecost be reversed when it is impossible to reverse the once and for all basis on which He is given, namely, namely, the glorification of Christ? (see Jn 7:39). Of course, the arguments against such a pitiful pneumatology (doctrine of the Holy Spirit) are too many to be entered upon here, as it would take us too far off our present purpose. I make the point only because, unless the church in its very nature is defined according to dispensational presuppositions (unheard of before the 19th century), then the presence of the saints in the tribulation is decisive proof that the church is present in the tribulation. In the pre-tribulational, dispensational view of Rev 3:10, there is no place for the church to play a role in the Elijah ministry of restoration. The evangelism of the nations is delegated to the 144,000 sealed from the 12 tribes of Israel, or to the two witnesses who come in the spirit and power of Elijah, since, in their view, the church has been physically removed.
There is another view that sees a ‘split rapture’ whereby the mature overcomer is taken and the compromised believers are left behind to endure the tribulation. This interpretation understands the promise of Rev 3:10, not as a promise to the church in general, but only to a special part of the church whom they call the ‘overcomers’. It tends to allow that some who are truly saved are left behind because they were not counted worthy to be among the special company of overcomers. In my view, this is to make a division between true, Spirit born believers that is not justified by scripture. It fails to distinguish between inheritance and reward. A distinction in spiritual attainment and eternal reward must not be confused with the ‘blessed hope’ that every believer has of perfected union with Christ and of reunion with all who ‘sleep in Jesus’ at His return (1Cor 15:23, 52; 1Thes 4:14-17; 2Thes 2:1; 2Tim 4:8; 1Jn 3:2-3). If we say that Rev 3:10 is a reference to an prior physical removal from the hour of testing, then it follows that any work of restoration is left to those who weren’t raptured (the ‘under-comers’?), or more likely the Elijah task would be delegated, in such case, to the two witnesses or the (newly saved?) 144,000. Note too that a study of the three woes in connection with the final three trumpets, together with other decisive evidence, puts beyond question that the ministry of the two witnesses is the second half of the week, as we shall see that this is also relevant to your question concerning the church’s role in the promised restoration.
But note who it is that overcomes in the book of Revelation. It is the same who overcomes in the book of 1John, namely, those who are genuinely born of God. In the Revelation those who overcome are those who choose martyrdom over the pressure to yield to the mark of the beast. In such case, to NOT overcome is to be irreversibly reprobated and damned. He who overcomes is not speaking of a special privileged group that will be exempt from the hour of testing. The overcomer is the saint that perseveres in the hour of ultimate testing by a faith that overcomes precisely because it is born of God (1Jn 5:4). Such perseverance under trial is a sign of true regeneration (1 Jn 5:1).
But who is more of an overcomer than Paul? It is therefore of highest importance where Paul sees his own resurrection and the resurrection or rapture of “all” who belong to Christ at His coming (1Cor 15:23, 52-54; 2Tim 4:8). Paul sees his own “change” at the same place the scripture puts Job’s ‘change’ and resurrection, namely, the day of the Lord (Job 14:13-14; 19:25-27 with Zech 14:1-4). Both Daniel’s and Isaiah’s personal resurrection are likewise placed after the tribulation at the day of the Lord (Isa 25:7-8; 26:16-21). It is the resurrection of the ‘last day’. This is also where Jesus puts the resurrection of all who would believe on Him. Until Alexander Reese challenged the glaring inconsistency, earlier dispensational writers had most inconsistently placed the resurrection of the OT saints at the pre-trib rapture.
Only since dispensationalism’s doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture and the supposed distinction of ‘church saints’ from all other saints (i.e., OT saints, tribulation saints, and millennial saints), has it ever been imagined that the resurrection of the OT righteous must wait an additional seven years after the church has been taken from earth to heaven. Yet, the constant promise of the NT is that the church’s blessed hope is to be gathered together unto Christ at the day of the Lord (Mt 24:29-31; Ro 2:5, 16; 1Cor 1:8; 5:5; Phil 1:6, 10; 2:16; 2Thes 1:7-8, 10; 2:2,3, 8; 2Tim 1:12, 18; 4:8; Heb 10:25; 2Pet 3:10, 12; Jude 5; Rev 16:14-15). For this very cause, pre-tribulationists have twice changed their position on the location of the day of the Lord. They are forced by their system to do do. The first time was in response to Alexander’s Reese’s, “The Approaching Advent of Christ.” In response to the ferment that his book stirred among scholars, the day of the Lord was moved forward from the end of the tribulation to now include the entire seven years. The last time was in response to Robert H. Gundry’s, “The Church and theTribulation.”
Gundry showed beyond dispute that the pre tribulation doctrine of an imminent (any moment) rapture crumbles if it is held that the rapture begins the day of the Lord. This is obvious, since Paul is very clear that “that day” cannot come until after the man of sin has first been revealed (2Thes 2:3). The response to Gundry’s challenge was to propose yet another space of time between the rapture and the beginning of the day of the Lord. This would give time for the Antichrist to be revealed sometime after, with no clear view of how long after the any moment rapture, but before the beginning of the thief-like coming of the day of the Lord. You see what lengths these expositors must go to save their theory.
Of course, such an artful evasion will simply not work! As I show elsewhere, the day of the Lord comes only AFTER the stellar upheaval and darkness that immediately follows the tribulation but precedes the day of the Lord (Mt 24:29 with Acts 2:20) You may wish to check my article on the website: “The Rapture Question Decisively Answered by the Timing of the Day of the Lord.” The day of the Lord simply cannot be spread out to include the entire seven years, not even the last 3 1/2 years that so nearly anticipates it. The day of the Lord is the climax of the tribulation and the beginning of the millennium. It is the climactic point of transition between this age and the age to come. This can be seen from the following evidence:
When the armies of the earth are gathering to the battlefields of Armageddon near the time of the Antichrist’s destruction (Dan 11:44-45; Rev 16:12-17), the day of the Lord is said to be “near” It is not yet “here”! (Isa 13:6, 10-11; 34:8; Eze 30:3; 39:8 22, 28-29; Joel 3:2, 11-16; Obad 15-17; Zeph 1:7, 14-15; 3:8; Mal 4:5; Rev 16:12-15 with 2Pet 3:10. 12; compare especially Rev 16:17 with Eze 39:8). In order to save the doctrine of imminence (i.e., that Christ may appear any moment), pretribulationists must try to locate the day of the Lord at the start of the seven years. But is is not the rapture that comes as a thief, but the day of the Lord (1Thes 5:3), and “that day” (the DOL) shall NOT come except there come first the falling away and the revelation of the man of sin” (2Thes 2:1-3, 8), so very clearly, the day of the Lord is NOT imminent. It is NOT an event that can begin at any time. It canNOT begin until after the Antichrist is revealed (2Thes 2:3).
Observe: Even so late as the 6th bowl, Jesus announces that His thief-like coming is still ahead (Rev 16:12-15). This agrees perfectly with 2Pet 3:10, 12, where the day of the Lord that comes ‘as a thief’ is also called the “day of God,” just as the post-tribulational, Armageddon return of Christ is called, “the great day of God Almighty” (Rev 16:14). This is the same post-tribulational coming that Jesus compares to a thief in His Olivet prophecy in Mt 24:43. Here is where scripture puts the thief-like return of Jesus, which is the day of the Lord.
Furthermore, Paul puts his own resurrection at the last trump. Shall we put the rapture and ascent of an overcomer group ahead of where Paul puts his own translation or resurrection? Where exactly does Paul put the ‘last trump’ that translates the church? Paul is very clear where he is putting the trumpet when he says, “THEN shall be brought to pass the saying that is written …” (1Cor 15:54). When is ‘then’? What is ‘the saying’ and where is it written? The answer to these questions is decisive for what Paul has in mind. The saying, “death is swallowed up in victory,” is found in Isa 25:8. Note that the context is undeniably post-tribulational. It belongs to a section in Isaiah that scholars call, “Isaiah’s little apocalypse” (Isa 24-27). As part of the continuing prophetic narrative, Isaiah places his own resurrection at the end of the great tribulation (Isa 26:16-21). We find the same order of events in Daniel where he too is raised after the time of unequaled trouble (see Dan 12:1-2, 13). What is more, the very trumpet that Jesus mentions in connection with His post-tribulational return (Mt 24:29-31) is certainly the same that is mentioned in Isa 27:13 in the same context.
It cannot be doubted that the “gathering together of the elect” in Mt 24:31 in connection with the great trumpet is the same “gathering together” of believers (“our gathering together unto Him”) in 2Thes 2:1. It is all on the same day, the day of the Lord (2Thes 2:1-3). In John’s Revelation, it is significant that there are no further trumpets to be sounded after the 7th, which finishes the mystery of God, raises the dead, and announces the judgment of the nations (Rev 10:7; 11:15-18). How remarkable then, in the face of such massive evidence, to be bound to a theory that expects Paul’s ‘last trump’ to be seven years earlier than this well known trumpet that sounds at the end of the tribulation.
How then, without labored qualification, could Paul have ever expected his first century hearers to NOT confuse a supposed pre-trib resurrection trumpet with this well known resurrection trumpet that Isaiah and Jesus mentions in connection with the Lord’s return and Israel’s post-tribulational deliverance? Therefore, in view of where Paul puts his own resurrection, I am not inclined to imagine an earlier rapture of any kind, as this would leave the final work of restoration to someone other than the church, the pillar and ground of truth. Furthermore, it would rob God of His intention that gentile believers in particular be those who will move the Jew to jealousy.
These are only a few of the reasons why Rev 3:10 cannot mean a pre-tribulation rapture of any part of the church. Pretribulational dispensationalists will object that the church is nowhere to be found after ch 4 of Revelation. This is a very artificial and ungrounded objection because it assumes that terms such as “elect” and “saints” do not imply the presence of the church. Never, in all the history of the church has it ever been conceived or taught that the born again elect saints of God are not also the living members of Christ’s body. This is a new theory that has appeared as a Trojan horse in the evangelical camp for such a time as this. It would be quite surprising if the word church should be used in the Revelation to describe the universal experience of the church in the tribulation. Throughout the NT, the word, ‘church’ is seldom used to describe saints in general. It is used only very occasionally for the corporate, universal body of Christ. Its far more common usage is to describe a local assembly of believers. It would be strange indeed if the word church should be used in the more apocalyptic sections of Revelation where the former apocalypse of Daniel provides the background for its use of the word, ‘saints’.
Who are the saints if not the church? It is only the peculiar ecclessiology (doctrine of the church) of dispensationalism that has ever said differently. Besides, the church is mentioned again in Revelation by a term that even dispensationalists admit refers to the church. “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb …” (Rev 19:7-9). Except for pretribulational presuppositions, the natural reading of this imagery is placed in the context of Jesus’ white horse return at Armageddon. The saints on earth are immediately united in the air with the myriads of departed redeemed that descend with Jesus at His return (1Thes 3:13; 4:14 with Zech 14:5; Joel 3:11; Isa 13:3 with Ps 149:5-9). The marriage supper of the Lamb coincides perfectly with Isa 25:6-9 where the context is the time of the resurrection, Israel’s deliverance, and the removal of the veil that covers all nations. This coincides perfectly with the finishing of the mystery of God at the 7h trumpet (Isa 25:7 with Rev 10:7; 11:15)
Therefore, unless we are willing to conceive a special resurrection for so-called overcomers that happens before the tribulation, and thus before the last trump where Paul sees his own resurrection with all other believers (1Cor 15:23, 52-54; 2Thes 2;1; 1Tim 4:8), then we may conclude that Rev 3:10 cannot be a promise of physical removal for the church or any part of the church. What then are we to understand of this precious promise of comfort and reassurance? Since the promise is made to one church in particular facing the great persecutions of Rome, it will not do to restrict its meaning and application only to the church of the last generation. However, since the seven churches of Asia are representative of the church of all time, and since the language of Rev 3:10 is so obviously a reference to the well known eschatological trial that is the transition between this age and the age to come, the promise is to all who will be divinely enabled to stand in the evil day. In what sense does the patient endurance of believers commend them to the promise to be kept from (‘ek’) the hour of temptation that is coming as a snare on all who dwell on the earth”? How are we kept? Is it by complete removal so that one is not physically in the hour? Or is the keeping from the peril that the hour holds?
On strictly linguistic grounds, either interpretation is possible. Its nearest parallel is Jn 17:15, “I do not pray that You should take them ‘out of’ the world, but that You should keep them ‘from’ the evil one.” Here, the idea is deliverance “from” the power of evil, not its presence. When Jesus said, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour” (Jn 12:27), it was not merely an hour within natural chronology, but prospects of the awful ordeal that made His prophetic consciousness to wince and recoil at the terrors the hour would bring. Thus, ‘kept from the hour’ becomes a figure of speech for deliverance and escape from what the hour of ultimate testing threatens.
But there is a phrase in this promise that has a very close parallel to its frequent usage throughout the Revelation. It is “them that dwell on the earth” (Rev 6:10; 11:10; 12:12; 13:8, 12, 14; 14:6; 17:8). In most instances, it becomes almost a technical term for the world of the unregenerate that are exposed to the wrath of the last plagues. Its closest parallel is found in Luke 21:35. Look at it in its larger context: “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a ‘snare’ shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:34-36). Here, I believe, is the key for how we should understand Rev 3:10.
The ‘hour’ of Rev 3:10 is the time that a terrible “snare / temptation” will overtake all earth dwellers who are not counted worthy to escape its deadly deception. It is the time immediately preceding and climaxing with “that day,” the day of the Lord, when men shall stand, or ‘not be able’ to stand before the Son of Man. It is the day that overtakes the unbelieving world as a thief (Mt 24:43-44; 1Thes 5:1-3; Rev 3:3; 16:15). It comes suddenly in a time they (the earth dwellers) are not expecting. Not only will it bring an unequaled test of persecution for believers and sore plagues of wrath upon unbelievers, it will be preceded by a deception (snare) that will be unequaled, so great that had it been possible, even the very elect would have been swept away by the strong delusion. It is this deadly deception that will ensnare the nations. It is from this great apostasy (world rebellion) that Rev 3:10 promises escape and preservation, not through physical absence but through gracious protection.
But there appear to be a broad and a narrow use of the term, ‘hour’ in Revelation. In Rev 17:12, the hour seems to include the entire 3 1/2 years of unequaled tribulation, since this is the time that the ten kings are united with the beast in their war against the whore, but in Rev 18:10, 17, 19, the hour is much more narrowly defined. It is the great day of God Almighty in final judgement on the whore, as this time, the judgment is inflicted directly and much more finally by God Himself. This takes us to the very end of the tribulation, and even here, there is a great moment of testing that will confront the nations. It is the time of the “valley of decision” (Joel 3:14) when the nations are being seduced by evil spirits to move against the Antichrist but meet instead the unexpected return of Jesus at Armageddon (compare Dan 11:44-45 with Rev 16:12-17; 19:19).
So I ask; is the hour of trial the entire tribulation? Or is this hour a more narrow point of time at the end of the tribulation? When the final hour of Babylon’s destruction comes, the risen saints will participate with Jesus in her judgment (see Zech 14:5; Joel 3:11; Isa 13:3 with Ps 149:5-9). In such case, they will be with the Lord at that hour. I believe the hour of testing refers to the entire tribulation from the time of the abomination to the end, but even if, for the sake of argument, it should be insisted that “kept from the hour” should be interpreted to mean physical absence, it still would not necessarily mean removal from the entire 7 years, or even the last 3 1/2 years, but only the “hour” of mystery Babylon’s final destruction at the great day of God Almighty (Rev 16:17-19; 18:10, 17, 19).
It also important to note that many, including both Jews an gentiles, obviously do not require physical removal in order to escape the judgments of the tribulation. Some of these who obviously did not take the mark of the beast are preserved to the end. We know that a remnant of Israel survives the tribulation to receive repentance at the same time the church is being translated into their glorified state. These penitent survivors enter the millennium in mortal bodies. From a number of scriptures, we know that the penitent remnant of Israel will be assisted in their return by surviving gentiles who manifestly were not translated at the rapture.
As an aside, some pretribulationists have interpreted Lk 21;34-36 as a promise of escape by rapture, but many of their more academic leaders and scholars have cautioned against such an interpretation, because the context simply will not bear it. The entire context assumes believers witnessing and experiencing the events of the tribulation in anticipation of the Lord’s return after the tribulation. The same thing can be said of the Lord’s comparison of His coming as a thief in Mark and Matthew. Any close examination of the context will show that the coming in view is the coming after the tribulation. This is admitted even by pre-trib scholars, but the average pre-tribulationist hardly knows what the scholars of their position have been forced to concede in the more academic discussions on these questions, as mentioned above in the example of their changing positions on the day of the Lord.
Now I come to your first question: So far then as it can be firmly established that the church goes through the tribulation, then the church, as the pillar and ground of the truth (1Tim 3:15), will be the corporate prophetic agent through whom the Spirit of God will speak and work. I believe the restoration anticipated in Mt 17:11 and Mal 4:5 is to be somewhat distinguished from the restoration of Acts 3:21, though part of the same process. The restoration of Mal 4:5 takes place in the tribulation and is consummated by the restoration that comes fully only with Jesus’ return.
What is restored? It is all that was lost when the kingdom of David and Solomon passed under the power of the gentiles. It is all that was promised in the everlasting covenant that would come to full in the day-of-the-Lord vindication of the name and Word of God in Israel’s national repentance and return. That’s what a Jew thought of when he would speak of the ‘restoration of the kingdom to Israel’ (Acts 1:6; 3:21). It is what Paul was thinking of when he spoke of “their fullness” in contrast to the “fullness of the gentiles” (Ro 11:12, 15, 25-29. It is what Ezekiel, Obadiah, and Jesus had in mind when they spoke of the day of the Lord as the terminal point to the “time of the goyim” (Eze 30:3; Obad 15; Lk 21:24). It is also the fullness of Christ in the many membered man that God has ordained to fill up in the church before His return (Dan 11:32-33; Ro 11:25; Eph 4:13; Rev 12:10).
I believe Mt 17:11 and Mal 4:5 will be fulfilled in the ministry of the two witnesses, but not only the two witnesses. The two witnesses are real individuals, not a re-incarnations of Moses, Enoch, or Elijah, but they will come in the spirit and power of Elijah. They are local in the actual city of Jerusalem with a special assignment, unique to their calling, but they are not the only ones who receive power at this time. It is no mere coincidence that the two witnesses receive power for their task at precisely the same time that the ‘maskilim’ (those having insight; Dan 11:32-33; 12:3, 10) are empowered for their testimony throughout the last 3 1/2 years. It is very significant to note that immediately after the abomination of desolation is mentioned in Dan 11:31 (remember this is the very event that Jesus says starts the tribulation; Mt 24:15-16, 21), the very next verse speaks of the anointing of power that rest on those having insight (the ‘maskilim’) who “know their God.” Something has happened, and this is confirmed by what we see in Rev 12 where Michael casts down Satan to begin his “short time” of final fury against the woman and the saints (Rev 12:12).
Again, it is not incidental that when the “accuser of the brethren” is cast down, the saints are described as those who “love not their lives unto the death” (Rev 12:10). All of this happens at the mid point of Daniel’s last week. It happens in heaven and on earth. It is the point of great release, not only the mystery of iniquity in the Antichrist, but the fullness of Christ in a people of the Spirit who have been deeply emptied and prepared for the removal of Satan from his access and position in heaven as the accuser of the brethren. I can’t develop here all the implications this has for the church’s ministry of restoration in the tribulation, but our brother, Tom Quinlan has preserved a discussion I give on this at our first annual conference in Ohio. You can find that discussion posted on video on our website under, “The Church’s Tribulation Fullness.”
Also, you may wish to consult an article called, “Daniel as a Type of the Godly Remnant.”
You and the precious band that serve with you there are daily in our prayers. With greatest love and appreciation, Reggie