Then I saw another portent in heaven, great and amazing: seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is ended. And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb: "Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, King of the nations! Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your judgments have been revealed."
Jesus said to his disciples, "But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls."
The final sentence of the gospel, perhaps added later to Jesus' words by way, commentary and application, is striking: "By your endurance you will gain your souls." It is another one of those floating comments that can fit into many situations. It occurred earlier in Luke 8:15 in a somewhat adapted form, where the seed bore fruit "through endurance." The Greek for endurance (hypomoné ) is like our modern phrase "hanging in there" and reflects an inner attitude of perseverance, consistency, dependability. In hard times we must continue in our loyalty to God. In the meanwhile Jesus promises "I will give you a wisdom which none of your opponents can take exception to or contradict." Our words will be prompted by love and fidelity. Such words will have power to persuade and will gradually bear their good fruit.
People of patient endurance can, according to Revelation, join in the triumphant song of Moses after crossing the Red Sea (Exodus, 15). Like the people led by Moses, we too face stretches of wilderness and desert. We can do nothing other than push onward and persevere. "Mighty and wonderful are your works, Lord God Almighty. Righteous and true are your ways, O King of the nations!"
This phrase, "by your endurance," which can fit many moments of our lives and help us to carry onward towards the promised land, has a nice ring in the Latin translation of Saint Jerome: in patientia vestra possidebitis animas vestras, "By your patience you will possess your souls."
Shortly before his death Jesus speaks to his disciples about their own passion. He tells them that they will be seized and persecuted, handed over to the authorities and to imprisonment, all because they bear the name of Jesus. Those words of Jesus have come to pass throughout the history of the church. Indeed, people are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus today in huge numbers, in places like Syria, Iraq, Northern Nigeria, North Korea and other parts of the world. Although, we are not being persecuted for our faith here at home, it is more difficult to be a believer in today's world than in the more recent past. The social support is much less. In a sense, every Christian generation has its problems and difficulties. In the gospel, Jesus assures us that he himself will be with us when we find ourselves facing opposition and hostility and are tempted to discouragement. 'I myself will give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist.' At such times we are not left to our own strength. Moreover, because the Lord is with us to support us, the trials and tribulations that come our way because of our faith are an opportunity for us to bear witness to our faith. Jesus declares 'that will be your opportunity to bear witness.' We witness not in our own strength but in the strength the Lord gives us. Jesus goes on to make a wonderful promise to us if we are faithful to him during difficult times, 'your endurance will win you your lives.'