THE HOUR OF TRIAL
Revelation 3:10 says, "Because you have kept the word of My endurance, I also will keep you out of the hour of trial which is about to come on the whole inhabited earth, to try them who dwell on the earth." No doubt, the trials that will come to try all the inhabitants on the earth will be the tribulation. In this verse, the Lord Jesus promised that the church in Philadelphia would be preserved from the period of tribulation. This indicates that before the period of tribulation begins, the Lord will take them away from the earth. This is a rapture before the tribulation. To say, however, that the whole church will be raptured before the tribulation has no scriptural ground. This verse tells us that the overcomers, such as the church in Philadelphia, will be taken from the earth before the time of tribulation and kept from the hour of trial.
If some seeking ones are taken away before the tribulation and you are left, what will be your attitude? Will you still love the world? The tribulation will be full of all kinds of sufferings and troubles. From at least three directions the damages and sufferings will come to mankind. They will come from God, from man, and from Satan. At that time God will exercise His judgment over the heavens and over the earth. Because of God’s judgment, much natural phenomena will be changed. The sun will become dark; the earth will be shaken with earthquakes; rains and floods will come. In Matthew 7:24-27 the Lord Jesus said that the rain would descend, that the rivers would come, and that the winds would blow. The rain descending signifies testing from God; the river rising signifies testing from man; and the winds blowing signify testing from Satan, because Satan is in the air. That trial in Matthew 7 is a little miniature of the tribulation to come.
A great part of the coming tribulation will be the phenomenal changes in the earth and the heavens. These changes will be from God; God will shake the earth. The sun which has been so pleasant will become an enemy, and the moon will be darkened. There will also be the trials from man. The Antichrist and all of his army will persecute anyone who is related to God. The Jews and the Christians will all suffer persecution from the Antichrist and his army. In addition to this, Revelation 12 tells us that Satan will damage the earth with great wrath.
If you are on the earth at that time, during all of these trials, and you realize that some of the believers have been taken by the Lord, what will you do? You are the Lord’s crop but you are not ripe and ready for harvesting. The tribulation will be like the hot sun to dry all of the water of the world out of you and to mature you and make you ready to be harvested. Surely the believers at that time will be ripened quickly! Perhaps within the first few years a good number of Christians will be matured. They will be so clear at that time that they should not love their education, their jobs, or their homes. They will be so clear that they need to love the Lord and to eat of Christ, not only three times a day, but perhaps ten times a day.
(The Kingdom, Chapter 40, by Witness Lee)