Table of Contents
The passage in question is:
Rev 3:10 ESV Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.
The context is the seven letters that Jesus sent to the churches through the Apostle John.
The churches in Revelation 2-3 are real churches
It is well known that the seven churches addressed in Revelation will real churches that existed at the time the revelation was given. There is no good reason why a promise given to a specific church because of their specific actions automatically applies to believers today.
The Philadelphia church did particular works that led to their deliverance from the hour of trial.
Do all Christians today meet the criteria described?
Rev 3:8 “‘I know your works. … I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.
Rev 3:10, “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance”.
We know that a number of the other churches Jesus wrote to in Revelation did not please Him and so almost certainly did not meet this criteria. And it is highly unlikely that all true believers have had patient endurance. So this promise, if it were to be applied to believers today, would only apply to those who have little power, not denied His name and shown patient endurance.
With regard to “have but little power”, Western Christians are among the most powerful people in the world. Some hold the highest office in the land, many are powerful businessman and women, and the majority are vastly richer than the average person in bygone years. If the reasons given for this promise are to be understood, there are very few Christians today who would benefit.
The churches did face a severe ‘hour of trial’ under Emperor Diocletianic
It is possible that an hour of trial did come upon the whole known world. There were constant persecutions of Christians through until Constantine began his rule in the 4th century. However the persecution under Diocletianic was particularly brutal.
In future generations, both Christians and pagans would look back on Diocletian as, in the words of theologian Henry Chadwick, “the embodiment of irrational ferocity“. To medieval Christians, Diocletian was the most loathsome of all Roman emperors. From the 4th century on, Christians would describe the “Great” persecution of Diocletian’s reign as a bloodbath. The Liber Pontificalis, a collection of biographies of the popes, alleges 17,000 martyrs within a single thirty-day period.
The pagan crowd was more sympathetic to the Christians’ sufferings than they had been in the past. Lactantius, Eusebius and Constantine write of revulsion at the excesses of the persecutors—Constantine of executioners “wearied out, and disgusted at the cruelties” they had committed. The fortitude of the martyrs in the face of death had earned the faith respectability in the past, though it may have won few converts. The thought of martyrdom, however, sustained Christians under trial and in prison, hardening their faith. Packaged with the promise of eternal life, martyrdom proved attractive for the growing segment of the pagan population which was, to quote Dodds, “in love with death”. To use Tertullian’s famous phrase, the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church.