You know that warning about not adding words to the Bible? I think of it whenever I read passages like this:
You have kept my command to endure patiently… (Revelation 3:10a)
That’s from the NIV translation and it conveys the idea that you have been commanded to endure life’s struggles with fortitute and long-suffering. That is NOT what Jesus is saying here.
Read that passage in a literal translation or a word-for-word translation such as the NASB and it says this:
Because you have kept the word of my perseverance… (Revelation 3:10a)
See the difference? Jesus is not talking about your patience but his perseverance. The Passion translation is hardly a word-for-word translation, but it does an excellent job here:
Because you have passionately kept my message of perseverance… (Rervelation 3:10a)
What is the word or message of his perseverance and how do we keep it?
What is the word of his perseverance?
The word of his perseverance is the good news that Jesus has persevered and overcome the world. It’s the joyful revelation that because Jesus has done it all, you have nothing to prove.
How do we keep the word of his perservance? By continuing to trust in Jesus who persevered.
To keep his word (Rev. 3:8) or keep his deeds (Rev. 2:26) or keep his faith (Rev. 2:13) or keep the word of his perseverance (Rev. 3:10) is to believe in Jesus and his finished work. It’s guarding the truth, continuing in the faith, or continuing in the grace of God, and staying settled on the rock. It is refusing to be tempted into the dead works of religion and unbelief.
Jesus commends the Philadelphians for trusting him. How might they have failed to keep the word of his perseverance? They could have fallen under the law. We need to beware of the same temptation.
The first-century Jews despised the Christians for being lawless. The Christians claimed to follow God yet they did not practice circumcision or live by the Law of Moses (Acts 15:5). Worst of all, they worshipped a dead rabbi as though he was the Son of God. This was unacceptable. The Christians needed to be brought into line.
Such was the mindset that opposed the believers in Philadelphia.
Like the Galatians, the Philadelphians were pressured to accept another gospel, one that emphasized ritual observance of the law. But unlike the Galatians, the Philadelphians didn’t listen. They remained true to Christ and refused to become burdened by a yoke of slavery.
We can be certain this was the flash-point in Philadelphia because of a letter received by the church that came from Ignatius of Antioch. Ignatius had been trained by the legendary John, and in his letter he urged the Philadelphians to resist all forms of law.
If anyone preach the Jewish law unto you, listen not to him… (If any) persons do not speak concerning Jesus Christ, they are in my judgment but as monuments and sepulchers of the dead, upon which are written only the names of men.
What is the law? In the first century, law preaching meant preaching the Law of Moses (Acts 15:21). But in the 21st century, just about anything can be turned into a law—even the words of Jesus to the Philadelphians.
Because you have kept the word of my perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing. (Revelation 3:10)
A Christian fitness test
Some twist our Savior’s beautiful words into a Christian fitness test. They say you have to persevere and endure to be saved. You have to keep Christ’s commands and maintain an erect and noble bearing under pressure.
Fail to persevere and you risk punishment, even damnation.
This old covenant interpretation even appears in some English Bibles. “Because you have kept my command to endure….”
What command?! There is no command.
Jesus is not even talking about the Philadelphians’ endurance or perseverance; he’s commending them for keeping the word of his perseverance.
“Because you kept my command… I will keep you from the hour of trial.” That’s a terrible translation. That’s putting an old covenant price tag on a new covenant promise.
Bad translations put price tags on the grace of God and turn gifts into wages. But good translations reveal the good news of Jesus.
We are not kept from the hour of testing because we endure; we are kept because Christ has endured.
Image source: 123rf.com
Some material in this article came from Letters from Jesus.
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