Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Monday, June 17, 2024

Let’s Pay Attention to What Words Actually Mean (Rev 3:10)

I wish that people who do not know Greek would stop misusing it to prove a theological position. When I was writing Greek for the Rest of Us, friends warned me about misuse, so hopefully this last email I received doesn’t refer to those using my book.

In Revelation 3, John tells us about the message to the church in Philadelphia. The angel to the church says that they “have kept my word and have not denied my name.” As a result, the angel says , “I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who claim to be Jews and are not, but lie — I will make them come and bow down before your feet and understand that I have loved you.”

The second blessing is in v 10. “Because you have kept (ἐτήρησας) my word about patient endurance, I also will keep (τηρήσω) you from (ἐκ) the hour of testing that is coming upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth." The question has to do with the meaning of τηρήσω ἐκ. The friends of the person who wrote me are claiming that τηρήσω ἐκ means to “take away, snatch away,” supporting their view of the pre-tribulation rapture.

First things first. τηρέω has a range of meaning including, “keep watch over, guard; keep, hold, reserve, preserve; observe, fulfill, pay attention to” (BDAG). Nowhere in its semantic range do you find “to take or snatch away,“ and the preposition ἐκ has no affect on the meaning of the verb. It simply isn’t what the word means.

Secondly, notice the play on words. “Because you have kept (ἐτήρησας) my word ... I also will keep (τηρήσω) you.” The same verb must have the same basic meaning when the two occurrences parallel each other like this. “To take away” would have no meaning in the first part of the verse.

Thirdly, when no major translation conveys the idea of “away,” caution is concerned with a unique translation. They all have “keep” or “protect.”

Fourth, I understand interpretation of Revelation is difficult, but is it reasonable to think that only members of the church in Philadelphia, and all the members of the church, would be raptured? I don’t think so.

Please, if you are going to make a point based on Greek, make sure you know Greek, a major commentary agrees with you, and your interpretation is not unique among translations.