Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
What does it look like to live as a true believer in a hard world? God’s word calls us to endurance. And God’s word describes us as those who trust Jesus and follow his commands.
Revelation 13 and 14 paint for us a picture of a polarized, divided, embattled world. In chapter 13, the beast is marking out men as his own and persecuting all who refuse to be identified with him. Those who will not bow to his evil worship or take part in his wicked practices will be cut off from polite society. They will be attacked, mocked, ridiculed, ignored, persecuted, robbed, starved, exiled, and killed. Were a Christian to see that chapter alone, it would be powerfully disheartening in many ways.
But then, as the follow-up to the vision of the beast and false prophet, much like we see in other passages, our scene shifts. We see the Savior, standing strong, keeping his own. We see those bearing not the mark of the beast but of the Lamb. We see songs of worship and faithfulness among the people of God.
Then, as a transition, we read the verse that is above. What we see in chapters 13 and 14, I believe, come together, meet, and lead us to this conclusion. The beast is evil. The world will grow hostile toward those who love and follow the Lord. When the evil are in power, they will seek to ostracize those who love the Lord. But, in the midst of this all, Jesus has his own. Jesus keeps his own. Jesus loves his own. And the call for those who know Jesus is to endure. Stand strong. Do not give up. Do not be discouraged. Endure.
The call for endurance, as we see above, has a tie to marks of identity. The call is for saints, those saved by Jesus and set apart for God. All true believers are granted that label by God. All who know Jesus are set apart from the world to the glory of God. And the saints are to endure, not giving in to the temptation to compromise with the world and live like those who belong to the beast.
At this point, depending on the author of the article, a reader might expect one of two things. One might expect a bigtime gospel reminder, a doubling-down on grace and hope. Or, given another author, one might expect a passionate call to obedience to the word and ways of the Lord. In point of fact, God gives us both.
How do the saints endure? Faith and obedience are central. Let’s first talk obedience, as it is the lower-hanging fruit. To love Jesus, to stand strong, to remain faithful in this life in the face of hardship requires obedience to the word of God. What will make a believer stand out in this fallen world, especially in seasons of persecution and hardship, is the believer’s willingness to obey the Lord without compromise. When the world demands that all applaud or even experiment with forms of immorality, the believer refuses. When the world demands that families compromise their schedule to the world’s values, the believer treasures gathered worship. When the world says that worship is forbidden, the believer worships anyway. Believers obey. Understand, Christian, that obedience is part of endurance.
But never should we have a legalistic existence. WE do not earn our spot in heaven by doing what is right. No, true endurance is founded in the gospel. We endure in faith. No matter how much the world wants to make us doubt, we believe. The follower of Christ is first and foremost a believer. We are believers before we are doers. We are believers, resting in the person and the perfectly finished work of Jesus. Our hope is never in ourselves or in our ability to obey. Our hope is in Christ and in Christ alone.
In the first centuries, Christians lived in a hard world. The Roman government, from time to time, would demand compromise. Believers had to rest in their faith and choose to obey God instead of Caesar. This required endurance, bearing up under pressure. In the days of the Reformation, when the church had been so corrupted as to lose its hold on Scripture, when the church had become so tied to political powers that one could not see a line between the word of the king and the word of the Lord, Christians had to endure in faith and in obedience to the recovered Holy Scripture. And today, in a world of cancel culture, sexual perversion, and mocking of morality, we are still to endure. We are to be the saints of God. We are to keep the faith, totally trusting in Jesus alone as our hope. And we are to endure in obedience, loving the Lord who saved us by obeying his holy commands.