What is the Hour of Testing Coming on the Whole World?
What does Revelation 3:10 mean?
Once again, the world seems on the brink of destruction. Pandemics, terrorism, nuclear threats. Could this be the end?
It probably isn’t, but it is an excellent time to discuss “the hour of testing” that Jesus mentioned in his letter to the church in Philadelphia:
Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, 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. (Revelation 3:10)
What is the hour of testing that is coming on the whole world? And how do we prepare for it?
The coming hour of testing
The hour of testing is a reference to Judgment Day. When Jesus returns, everything will be tested. Sometimes Judgement Day is called a day; other times it is called an hour:
Fear God, and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come (Revelation 14:7)
Note that the hour of testing is NOT a prophetic reference to the Roman destruction of Judea. The hour (or day) of testing (or judgment) affects the whole world.
Nor is this a warning for the church. When the judgment comes, those things that are opposed to Christ will be shaken, but the believer who has been tested and approved in Christ will stand firm.
There is some illuminating context that helps us unpack these words from the Lord.
Philadelphia and a dozen other cities were badly damaged in the great Lydian Earthquake of AD17. For years afterward, Philadelphia experienced nerve-wracking aftershocks. The city was “ever subject to earthquakes,” said Strabo the geographer.
To someone raised in the earthquake-prone region of Lydia, the hour of testing would evoke anxious memories of earthquakes and houses falling down. When Jesus says such an hour is coming on the whole world, they might imagine a global shaking, and they would not be far wrong.
Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens. (Hebrews 12:26)
But the good news is that Jesus promises to protect the Philadelphians from the coming hour of testing. They won’t experience it.
I will keep you from the hour of testing
Some twist our Savior’s encouraging words into a Christian fitness test.
“You have to persevere and endure to be saved. You have to keep Christ’s commands and maintain an erect and noble bearing under pressure. Fail to persevere and you risk punishment, even damnation.”
Talk about putting an old covenant spin on a new covenant promise. We are not kept from the coming trial because we endure; we are kept because Christ has endured.
You have kept the word of my perseverance.
The “word of my perseverance” is the good news that Jesus has persevered and overcome the world. It’s the joyful revelation that because Jesus has done it all, you have nothing to prove.
To keep the word of his perseverance is to keep his word (Rev. 3:8) or keep his deeds (Rev. 2:26) or keep his faith (Rev. 2:13).
It is believing in Jesus and his finished work. It’s guarding the truth, continuing in the faith, and staying settled on the rock. It is refusing to be tempted into the dead works of religion and unbelief.
Like some of the other New Testament churches, the Philadelphians had been pressured to accept another gospel, one that emphasized ritual observance of the law. But the Philadelphians didn’t listen. They continued in the grace of God and remained true to Christ.
Instead of filling their minds with fear and uncertainty, they filled their hearts with praise and thanksgiving. Although their world was shaking, the Philadelphians remain rock-steady.
Jesus took note. He saw their faith and responded by giving them one golden promise after another. Perhaps no other church in the Bible received as many good promises as the Philadelphians.
Surely God wants to bless all of us, but some of us are too busy stressing to hear what he has to say. We see the turmoil and the uncertainty, and our flesh reacts like Chicken Little.
Take a note from the faithful Philadelphians. See above the present troubles to the Alpha and Omega. Our times are in his hands.
Let his promises be in our hearts and may his praises be on our lips.
Want to learn more about the Philadelphians? Check out Paul’s book Letters from Jesus.
Please let us know what version or versions of the Christian Bible do you use in your posts? I couldn’t find the one you used for Rev. 3:10. Thank you.
Most of the time I use the same Bible here as I do for the Grace Commentary, namely the NASB1995.
The Bride or the Beast? The test will be who you are loyal to in that hour.
In Christ, meaning I have trusted Him to have already completed everything necessary for my righteousness and eternal salvation, I too have persevered and overcome the world… because He has! His work – everything required by God the Father (and we could never do) – is completed IN US (believers who actually realize He daily lives His life IN and THROUGH and FROM us). His “finished work” IS OUR “finished work.” He DID IT ALL SO WE HAVE NOTHING LEFT TO DO… as Paul Ellis states in this article, “you have nothing to prove.” It is refusing to continue trying to keep the old covenant law or any other dead works of religion… which is, in essence, a return to UNBELIEF.
I profoundly enjoy your content and insights, but I disagree that the use of the word “world” here requires the understanding that the judgment described is affecting the whole planet.
As you well know, the words translated world and earth in this verse– oikoumene and ge–can be referring to the Roman Empire and the land of Israel. Which would make it a clear reference to the events of AD 64 – AD 70. As does, most of the book of Revelation in my view.
One of the unfortunate aspects of modern Bible translation into English has been to bring Futurist presuppositions to the task of translation. Which results in ge frequently being rendered “world” or “earth” rather than “land.”
Hi David. Does the warning of Rev 3:10 point to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD70? There are at least three reasons why it does not. (1) The warning was written 25 years after the event, (2) it was given to people who lived nowhere near Judea, and (3) although the word oikoumenē can be translated land, as you point out, it is consistently translated as world throughout the New Testament. For emphasis, Jesus adds that this warning is for the “whole world” and the “earth”. So probably best to read it at face value, I think. Thanks for the comment.
A test seeks the answer to a question. The question is: Are you trying to produce God’s life through your own effort or are you trusting God to produce His life in you? This is saying the same thing as the article in a different way. Thanks
Nicely said, LJP.
Agree 100% Dr. Ellis … IF…and only IF … Rev. was written after A.D. 70. If interested in a thorough, academic case for it’s having been written prior, see Kenneth Gentry’s doctoral diss. “Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation.” If not, please keep up vital work of declaring the stunning implications of the finished work of Christ. And thank you for “The Grace Commentary” project. It’s so needed and excellent.
While doing the research for my book Letters from Jesus, I examined the evidence for early and late date authorships for Revelation. I was agnostic about the date and more than ready to demolish traditions that said John wrote his book in AD95/96. I did not have an agenda – I just wanted to see how strong the evidence was one way or the other. It soon became apparent that the evidence for a late-date authorship is overwhelming. It’s not even close.
Every book I have read pushing for an early date authorship (pre-AD70) typically has a short part on external evidence (the facts) and a large part on the so-called internal evidence (where the author links passages in Revelation with other Biblical prophecies that they believe point to the AD70 destruction of Jerusalem). They do this because there is virtually no external evidence for early date authorships. In the absence of actual evidence, they have to rely on bits of prophecies that look like other bits of prophecies that talk about destruction. They call it internal evidence, but it’s really post hoc rationalization. It’s whimsical at best, and dishonest scholarship at worst.
There are highly educated people making compelling arguments on both sides of this debate. I would encourage anyone interested in this topic to examine the evidence directly and decide for themselves.
Thanks i am so glad i can delete those ugly words of Paul: “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” and Jesus’ ugly words that if you do not carry your cross daily you cannot be His disciple. Phew thanks what a relief – there are now so many commands with respect my won salvation that i can ignore. what a wonderful burden off my shoulders.
I’m not sure why you would want to delete any of those wonderful exhortations. Unless we carry our cross, we cannot be saved. Unless we work out our salvation, we will not fully experience all that the Lord has provided for us.