In reading the letters to the churches in Revelation, I’ve focused on marks of a living and thriving church. Here’s the first four:
Love: See the letter to Ephesus
Suffering: See the letter to Smyrna
Orthodoxy: See the letter to Pergamum.
Repentance: See the letter to Thyatira.
Holiness: See the letter to Sardis.
In this post we add another. Perseverance. See the letter to Philadelphia
Jesus calls the church to perseverance and gives the assurance of eternal life. He calls the church not merely to faithfulness for the moment but faithfulness to the very end.
The church in Philadelphia was facing opposition from a group called “liars.” They claim to be the people of God. Yet, Jesus does not refer to them as the people but of God but as members of the “synagogue of Satan.” This group appears to be a collection of Jews who have rejected Jesus and his followers. Jesus calls the opposition group “liars” and refers to himself as “Holy and true.” This opposition group claims to have control over the kingdom of God but Jesus reminds the church that he’s the one who actually holds to keys.
Jesus describes an upside down kingdom. The things of earth are not the things of heaven. The church, in the eyes of the world, is of little strength and little power. Yet, there will come a day when those with much power in the eyes of the world will bow at the feet of the church.
In verse 10 Jesus provides a clever use of language. He says, “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.” Did you catch it? “Since you have kept … I will keep you.” With perseverance comes God’s protection. There is a lot of debate about what Jesus means when he says that he will protect us from the hour of trial. We can debate that another day. Let us not loose sight of the truth that with perseverance comes God’s protection.
What is perseverance? Another passage of Scripture provides great insight.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
– Hebrews 12:1-2
We are to fix our eyes on Jesus. He is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Yet, following Jesus does not provide a life free of opposition. In fact, Jesus himself faced a cross. Jesus endured the cross and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
In the face of opposition, may the church persevere. The end result of perseverance? Back to Revelation 3:7-13. The victorious ones will become pillars in the temple of God, stamped with the very name of God. We will join Jesus at the throne of God. Sounds like God’s protection to me.