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Written by Ángel Manuel Rodríguez
What is the meaning of the phrase “patient endurance” in Revelation 14:12 (NIV)?
I like this question. It deals with the Christian life and how one should live, rather than with interesting details that usually do not have a significant impact on our relationship with God. Those of us who enjoy studying the Bible should try to understand as much as we can about the content and message of the Bible. But if that study does not make us better Christians we’re wasting our time. So, what does “patient endurance” mean?
1. Meaning of the Term: The Greek term translated “patient endurance” is hupomonē, which expresses the idea of holding out or bearing up under difficult circumstances. It could be translated “perseverance,” “patience,” or “expectation.” In Greek literature it ref-erred to an attitude of aggressive and defiant perseverance when facing difficulties or misfortunes. It revealed an individual’s courage, endurance, and willingness to suffer. Those ideas expressed well the root meaning of the term, hupo (“under”) and menō (“to remain”), that is to say “remaining under” pressure without giving up.
In the Bible a new dimension of meaning is added. The Greek translation of the Old Testament used that term to translate some of the Hebrew words for “hope.” Hence, it added to the Greek term the idea of expectation, of waiting (e.g., Jer. 14:8; Ps. 71:5). This hope was considered to come from God, the hope of His people. The Greek term expressed not only endurance and perseverance under pressure but also the ground for that perseverance, namely trust and hope in God, who can deliver His people from threatening situations that bring anguish to the soul.
2. Use of Hupomonē in Revelation: The noun hupomonē is used seven times in the book of Revelation (seven is a recurring common number in the book). It designates the correct response of God’s people when their faith is threatened. In Revelation 1:9 it designates the experience of John and the churches to which he was writing. They were coparticipants in suffering, in the kingdom, and in “patient endurance.” In union with Christ they courageously endured suffering or affliction as they waited for God’s kingdom.
To the church of Ephesus, Jesus said, “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance” (Rev. 2:2, NIV). The deeds are defined as hard work and endurance. The context indicates that in this case “perseverance” refers to oppression caused by internal doctrinal attacks. In Revelation 2:3 hupomonē is used to describe the response of believers to the attacks of false teachers. Although experiencing oppression, they persevered in their faith at all cost. The same usage is found in Revelation 2:19, in which the context suggests that the false teachings of Jezebel threatened the faith of the community, although many of them courageously opposed her. The church of Philadelphia seemed to have faced internal conflicts but the true believers were called by the Lord to endure, knowing that the Lord would deliver them (Rev. 3:10). In Revelation 13:10 the church experiences persecution, but it is reminded that endurance grounded in the conviction that the Lord will return will bring a reversal of fortune.
3. Perseverance and God’s End-Time People: The last passage that employs the term hupomonē to designate the end-time people of God describes them as those who have “patient endurance,” keep the commandments of God, and have the faith of Jesus (Rev. 14:12). The immediate context (chapters 12–14) makes clear that the capacity to resist, to endure, is necessary because evil powers proclaim a false message, that is, invite people to worship the image of the beast. And because their lives are being threatened, they are under immense pressure (Rev. 13:15). Yet they endure, knowing that they can rely on the Lord for deliverance. This endurance is based on a personal commitment to the Lamb and in the deep conviction that He will deliver them.
In Revelation hupomonē is a key characteristic of the remnant who confront persecution, suffering, and deception. Some reading this may now be experiencing oppression and even persecution, some may be struggling with false teachings. The message for all of us is, hold out and remain faithful under pressure, being fully persuaded that you can wait in the Lord.