Summary: John in his suffering at Patmos receives a message of encouragement for him and the churches he has oversight of
Exposition of Revelation 1:9-11
Last week, we were introduced to key doctrinal concepts about the Trinity, especially the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the true and faithful witness, the paradigm of the Resurrection from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. He is the Alpha and Omega, and who has always existed, exists now, and is coming. He is called the Almighty. In other words, Jesus is fully God in His own right, or what Calvin calls “Autotheos”. This tells us that Jesus is sovereign over all the events of history from large down to the minutest detail. We who are minute details in the world’s scheme of things and only a number to our government, a statistic, are important to God. This would have served to provide assurance to the tiny Christian communities which John was addressing which were suffering under the hand of both the Jewish community and the Roman government with the short term prognosis of things rapidly becoming worse. It was important for them to know that God that God is able to save.
We also learned that God loves us. Jesus demonstrated this by freeing (washing?) us from our sins by means of His shed blood. He also demonstrates His continuing interest in us by making us a kingdom and priests before God and his Father. Even though the surface appearance looked entirely contrary to this, they were already reigning with Him.
When we take these two concept together, we have the two things that are necessary to our salvation. The first is God’s power to save. The second is His will to save. A God who is willing to save but unable to save is no more than a cosmic bartender who hears our tales of woe and cries in our beer with us. A God who is able but not willing to save would do us no good either. But Scripture reveals that God is both able and willing and has proved this in Jesus Christ. The natural response of the church community is worship and doxology, giving thanks to God for his abundant mercy and grace.
Finally we learned that God was about to judge those who had persecuted the true Israel. The Jewish communities who had colluded with the Romans in crucifying Christ and persecuting Jesus’ followers were about to undergo devastation. God was about to use Rome to destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. When the Jewish nation saw their destruction in progress, they would remember that they had pierced Jesus who was their nation’s only hope and had not repented, although many individual Jews did. They would beat their breasts in anguish. They would remember that Jesus predicted this Himself.
Exposition of the Text
In verse nine, we are introduced to the circumstances John and his churches were in. John was suffering tribulation on an Island called Patmos. This island is off the southwest coast of modern day Turkey. It is basically a large rock in the middle of the sea, windswept, barren, and isolated. The constant crashing of the waves acted like a Chinese water torture. The Romans used this as a prison. The Romans wanted everyone to give praise to Rome who was called “the Eternal City”. The Empire had started to glorify their Emperor as a god, calling him “Son of God” and “King of Kings”. They bragged on the prosperity they had brought to the world, their technology, their water and sewer projects, their roads, the stability they brought with their strong army and navy. They also bragged about their government and role as facilitator of culture. By sending someone who was ungrateful for all that the empire provided, sending someone to a desolate place like Patmos was meant to bring an offender to repentance. Another example of this was the banishment of the Roman poet Ovid to the desolate frontier for offending Caesar Augustus. After some time, it was hoped that one would come to one’s senses and acknowledge the Roman emperor and the empire by burning incense to him as a god. Or if the person did not repent, the harshness of the punishment would induce insanity and act as a deterrent to others.
John says that he is suffering there on account of his testimony to Jesus who is the Word of God. The Christians presented Jesus as being the true Son of God, the God who is Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of the world. One can instantly see that this preaching once made known to the Roman government would present difficulties to the Christians. Christians by bearing witness to Christ were making claims for Jesus, a man the romans crucified for treason, was King of Kings and Lord of Lords were in effect denying these claims to the Emperor. When the first Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar was assassinated, a comet appeared in the sky. Some interpreted this as the divine Julius ascending to the right hand of Jupiter (Zeus) as the Son of God. When other emperors died, similar claims were made for them. However, the Apostles, including John who had seen it, testified that they had seen Jesus, who was to the Romans a crucified Jew, who actually ascended to the right hand of God the Father. (Jupiter is a Latinization of the Greek Zeus Pater or Theos Pater, translated God the Father).