How Long Is An Hour?

Q. I have a question about Rev. 3:10: “I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world.” Is this a literal “hour”? How does this compare to the other uses of the word hour in Revelation, especially the destruction of Babylon in “a single hour”, Rev. 18:10, “the hour of his (God’s) judgment”, Rev. 14:7, and the 1/2 hour of silence in Rev. 8. The implication that you use from Rev. 3:10 is that hour refers to the 7 years of tribulation. How do we know what actual period of time “hour” refers to?

A. The Greek word translated “hour” can mean anything from 60 minutes to a particular season or period of time. We determine its meaning by the context. For example, in Matt. 24:36, Jesus said, “No one knows about that day or hour”. Looking back at Matt. 24:30, we can tell He was referring to the second coming and by using the phrase “that day or hour” it’s clear He meant the actual date and time of the second coming.

In Rev. 3:10 He spoke of “the hour of trial that’s coming on the whole world to test those who live on the earth.” The only such event in the Bible is the time of God’s wrath, which lasts for 7 years, so there He was using “hour ” to refer to a period of time. The same is true in Rev. 14:7 of the phrase “the hour of His judgment.”

In Rev. 18:10 John spoke of Babylon being destroyed in a single hour. The phrase “a single hour” means in 60 minutes of time. And in Rev. 8:1 the phrase “about half an hour” refers to approximately 30 minutes. In both these cases a plain reading of the text tells us how to interpret the time being described. When someone says “a single hour” we know he means 60 minutes, just as half an hour obviously means 30 minutes.

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