What does the phrase they “keep . . . the faith of Jesus” mean in Revelation 14:12?
Published on: 05-28-2021
This biblical verse, together with verse 13, closes the three angels’ messages and contrasts those who submitted to the agenda of the dragon and his allies (verses 9, 11) with God’s remnant people who are loyal to Christ. Concerning the phrase “the faith of Jesus,” the original Greek text is ambiguous and lends itself to different translations.
1. DIFFERENT POSSIBILITIES
It could be argued that in the phrase under discussion the noun “faith” refers to the teachings of Jesus. Revelation 2:13 seems to support this reading—the church in Pergamum “did not deny My [faith/teachings].” John would then be saying that God’s people are characterized by following the teachings of Jesus. The second possibility is to take “faith” as meaning “faithfulness” and to render the phrase as “the faithfulness of Jesus,” possibly meaning that Jesus’ faithfulness to God inspires believers to be also faithful. The third possibility is to understand “faith/faithfulness” as designating the faith of the believers and translate it as they “keep/remain faithful to Jesus,” which could mean both being loyal to His teachings or to be as faithful to God as was Jesus. This suggestion is not significantly different from the other two. The fourth possibility is to translate the phrase as “they keep their faith in Jesus.” In this case faith in Jesus would be pointing to their faith in Jesus as Savior. This is supported by the fact that in Revelation God’s people were cleansed from their sins and redeemed through the blood of Jesus (Rev. 1:5; 5:9; 14:3, 4).
2. JOHN’S INTENTION
The ambiguity of the Greek phrase makes it difficult to identify John’s intention. In cases like this the tendency of some interpreters is to suggest that John may have had in mind all four possible meanings. I will not necessarily argue against that view, but I would like to point to what I think is John’s main point—what he is aiming at. His main intention seems to be to emphasize that God’s people placed their faith in Jesus as their Savior and that this faith commitment is unmovable. They decided not to place their faith on the alleged power of the dragon to preserve human life (cf. Rev. 13:15). Relying on Christ for salvation is unquestionably at the heart of the teachings of Jesus. If we ask about the meaning of the phrase “the faithfulness of Jesus,” the most obvious answer would be that it refers to His faithfulness to the saving will of the Father—He was faithful to the point of the cross to save us. It does not matter how we translate the phrase “the faith of Jesus”—they all seem to have in common the idea of Christ’s death as the source of saving faith.
Let me add one more contextual piece of evidence supporting the idea that John is primarily referring to the believer’s saving faith in Christ. In Revelation 14:13 we read about “the dead who die in the Lord.” These are the believers who persevere and who are ready to die for the Lord. Notice that they “die in the Lord.” The phrase “in the Lord” is theologically rich. To be in the Lord means that we found in Him our Savior and that by faith we have been incorporated into His redemptive work and to His people. It appears that it is to this redemptive event that the phrase “the faith of Jesus” is primarily pointing. If I am correct, Revelation 14:12 is describing God’s people as those who keep together, in their personal experience, salvation by faith in Christ’s death and obedience to God’s commandments as their response to such manifestation of divine love: gospel and law.