Summary: The analysis of Christ's messenger on Patmos as set forth in Revelation 1:9-11 shows us how he received the message.
At the end of August, I started a series of messages that I have titled, “Christ’s Message to the Seven Churches.” It is based on the first three chapters of the Book of Revelation.
These chapters deal with Christ’s message to seven churches that were located in Asia (which is in modern western Turkey). These churches existed in a time of growing cultural opposition, religious intolerance, and doctrinal error. And each church received a message from Christ to remain steadfast and faithful. And while the original messages were directed to the seven churches, Christ’s priorities for his Church apply to all churches in all times.
Previously, we looked at the prologue of Christ’s revelation, and Christ’s greeting to his churches. Today I would like to look at Christ’s messenger on Patmos.
Let’s read about Christ’s messenger on Patmos in Revelation 1:9-11:
9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” (Revelation 1:9-11)
Christians today are facing increasing opposition from the culture. For example, the sexual and gender revolution that has taken place just in the last decade is astonishing. Albert Mohler said in a recent blog, “Christians in America now face a moment of judgment at the hands of a secular culture that grows more intensely adversarial with each passing day. Churches, institutions, and individuals committed to the Christian church’s historic sexual ethic, held consistently over two millennia, now find themselves faced with a stark choice – join the sexual revolution or face the consequences.” That lends credibility to the comment that was made to a group of pastors at a lunch meeting several years ago by the President of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Dr. Peter Lillback, when he said of pastors who would refuse to bow to the culture, “I fully expect to preach the gospel from prison because of my commitment to historic Christianity.”
Persecution against Christians broke out just a few years after the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. On the day of Stephen’s martyrdom, we read in Acts 8:1, “And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” As the gospel spread over the decades, opposition against Christianity grew throughout the Roman Empire. By the early second century, Pliny, the Roman governor of Bithynia, said that Christianity was a “depraved and extravagant superstition” and that “the contagion of this superstition has spread not only in the cities, but in the villages and rural districts as well.”
John MacArthur notes that Christians were hated for a number of reasons:
Politically, the Romans viewed them as disloyal because they refused to acknowledge Caesar as the supreme authority. That disloyalty was confirmed in the eyes of the Roman officials by Christians’ refusal to offer the obligatory sacrifices of worship to the emperor. Also, many of their meetings were held privately at night, causing the Roman officials to accuse them of hatching antigovernment plots.
Religiously, Christians were denounced as atheists because they rejected the Roman pantheon of gods and because they worshiped an invisible God, not an idol. Wild rumors, based on misunderstandings of Christian beliefs and practices, falsely accused them of cannibalism, incest, and other sexual perversions.
Socially, Christians, most of whom were from the lower classes of society (cf. 1 Cor. 1:26), were despised by the Roman aristocracy. The Christian teaching that all people are equal (Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11) threatened to undermine the hierarchical structure of Roman society and topple the elite from their privileged status. It also heightened the Roman aristocracy’s fear of a slave rebellion. Christians did not openly oppose slavery, but the perception was that they undermined it by teaching that master and slave were equal in Christ (cf. Philem.). Finally, Christians declined to participate in the worldly amusements that were so much a part of pagan society, avoiding festivals, the theater, and other pagan events.
Economically, Christians were seen as a threat by the numerous priests, craftsmen, and merchants who profited from idol worship. The resulting hostility, first seen in the riot at Ephesus (Acts 19:23ff.), deepened as Christianity became more widespread. . . . Pliny complained that the pagan temples had been deserted, and that those who sold sacrificial animals found few buyers.