Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Call for Patient Endurance

“This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.”

~Revelation 14:12 (NIV).

I love the simplest structures. They fuse our minds in a memorably tangible way such that we remember things we ought not to forget.

Revelation can be seen in four broad chunks: 1) an introduction in chapter one; 2) things present in chapters two to three; 3) things to come in chapters four to 22.5; and finally, 4) the concluding sixteen verses of chapter 22 form a conclusion to the apocalyptic and prophetic contribution of John’s famed letter from Patmos.

The ‘Hinge’ of Revelation

The verses immediately before this one above (v. 14:12), and the one immediately succeeding it, put this particular verse to the forefront, making it the hinging charge for the whole letter, and together bring about its resonant context for us. Daniel too (see 11:32 for instance) holds to this message—strength in patient endurance, especially for the most troublesome of periods.

John’s letter is frequently said to be purposed for all those Christians (a.k.a. saints) who are passing through their own temptations, sufferings and harassments; it provides them hope and aims to strengthen them in their trials. This is clearly beyond the strict apocalyptic function of the letter, which many seem to isolate, only to disappointingly miss the overall Christian-living thread.

There will be times of trial even beyond our present knowledge and capacities. But we can and should know that our good “labor” of faithful deeds will follow us into the life beyond physical death (v. 14:13). We’re warned by the hearing of the Three Angels in 14:6-11 not to backslide by falling into line with the beast. We’re to maintain our spiritual resolve.

And this is where a true Christian spirituality gains for us the right amount of traction for living life appropriately. We see the purpose in enduring patiently, well beyond our own default grumpiness and lack of spiritual resilience. We see the purpose in holding to God—grimly at times—in our weaknesses.

In obedience and faithfulness we’re known strangely to the world, but fondly by God. And soon it is that we will meet him, clad in our deeds of love toward him—sinners we might be, but saved of the Lamb of God we are!

Perhaps as we commit to reading the full account of Revelation in any spare hour or two we have, we might commence with verse 14:12 firmly in mind as the heart of the letter/apocalypse/prophesy. It’s one salient reading of it in any event.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

General Reference: Richard K. Moore (ed), Introduction to New Testament Studies (Bentley, Western Australia: Baptist Theological College of W.A., 1999), p. 388.

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