New Testament Key Words: Perseverance

A Powerful Word

The word translated as “perseverance” in the NASU is a powerful one in regard to the Christian spiritual walk. An example of its usage can be seen in 2 Pet. 1:6:

“and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness.”

This word, also translated sometimes as “patience”, “forbearance”, or simply “to endure” describes more than the mere “survival” of a challenge. It instead describes an active choice in the face of overwhelming pressure.

The Greek word is hupomone, which is a compound word that can literally mean “to bear under”. This creates a word picture by which the object is “underneath” a massive load of pressure, yet continues to “bear” the load without breaking. In ancient times, this word was commonly used of lines of soldiers who would “hold back” an advancing line, sometimes underneath the protection of their large shields.

A Virtue

In this ancient usage, the word became a Greek virtue, describing not simply the happenstance of “enduring” conflict, but an “active and energetic resistance to hostile power” (TDNT, 4:582). What differentiates this concept between a Greek virtue, and a later Christian virtue was the question of success: to the Greeks, the act was one of valor but did not guarantee victory, whereas one who “perseveres” in Christ is always granted the ultimate victory.

This can be seen to great effect in the Revelation of John. For example, Ephesus, while condemned for having lost her “first love” (2:4), is commended for her “perseverance” as seen in her labors in Christ and choice not to tolerate evil men (2:2). Philadelphia as well is commended for her labors a “perseverance”, being spared even a coming tribulation (3:10).

Perseverance and the Christian

The Christian will face trouble and pressures as he or she progresses in their walk toward Christ, and these pressures will sometimes be difficult to bear (cf. Rev. 13:10; 14:12). However, it is this “bearing under”, “patient endurance”, or simply “perseverance” that has its primary strength in the promise of Christ and the power of God that will allow the Christian to continue on his or her journey. It is the expectation of Christ for which the Christian can “persevere”, and it is through “perseverance” that the Christian can truly enjoy the expectation of Christ. This is not something the Christian must only choose; it is a defining characteristic of who the Christian is, facing the immense pressures of a dangerous, fallen world.

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