Revelation 2: 1-2
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands:
“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false. 3 I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary.
Classical Insight: In earlier Greek literature, we sometimes find this word (in its verbal form, ὑπομένω / hupomenō) in martial contexts, meaning to “stand one’s ground, to stand firm.” In the Iliad, for example, the poet describes how the “Argives (= the Greeks) stood firm, all together, and were not afraid” (Ἀργεῖοι δ᾽ ὑπέμειναν ἀολλέες οὐδὲ φόβηθεν, Homer, Iliad 5.498).
Devotion: Seeing as ὑπομονή shows up both in Revelation, a book where war breaks out in heaven and on earth and makes an appearance in the Iliad where war breaks out in heaven and on earth, one would expect the early church to be more warlike. The prophet John commends the church of Ephesus for its ὑπομονή, its patient endurance, the fact that these Christians are standing their ground. But what does that mean? Certainly, none of these churches are handing out swords and going to war. Whatever conflicts rage in the heavens, for the Christians addressed in Revelation, standing their ground meant, as my beloved Oma used to say “putting one foot in front of the other.” They are to continue following Jesus even when such discipleship is inconvenient or dangerous. For the churches named in Revelation, persecution could be anything from trial, to prison, to economic hardship, and cultural isolation. All these things must be endured and in being endured, the gospel of a God who also endures hardship in Christ Jesus is proclaimed. To endure, to get up day after day and put on Christ for one another, is how we follow Jesus, then and now.
Questions: What are examples of patient endurance from your own life? How can the church practice patient endurance in such times as these?
About the Blog
In this season of plague, flood, fire, hungry cats, and Advent, we invite you to reflect on the words (such clever words!) of the Prophet John in the book of Revelation.
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