Summary: Who are you? How you answer that question guides how you live your life. In our text this morning, John lays before us the identities of three parties: that of fellow Christians, of Jesus, and of the local church.
Revelation 1:9-20 Jesus, His People, the Local Church
3/5/17 D. Marion Clark
Who are you? How you answer that question guides how you live your life. In our text this morning, John lays before us the identities of three parties: that of fellow Christians, of Jesus, and of the local church.
The People of Jesus
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.”
John, in identifying himself, identifies the Christians to whom he writes. Together they are partners in “the tribulation, the kingdom, and the patient endurance that are in Jesus.” Out of three identifying contextual marks, two have to do with suffering: tribulation and patiently enduring the tribulation. The first, they have no control over. Tribulation is forced upon them. It has become a way of life for them as members of a minority religion that is held in suspect by some, in disdain by others, and even as dangerous by legal authorities.
No, they do not have control over the tribulation forced upon them, but they do have control over their response to its hardships. They can face it through patient endurance. And this is the reason why John is writing his letter – to encourage his fellow followers of Christ to patiently endure the afflictions that they face for their faith.
Between “tribulation” and “patient endurance” is another identifying context that explains the reason for the tribulation and that gives the motive for the patient endurance. John and his readers are partners in the “kingdom.” It is the kingdom that is “in Jesus,” that belongs to Jesus. John’s readers are suffering in tribulation because they belong to this kingdom. They might on earth be counted as citizens of the kingdom of Rome and of whatever local land where they live, but their ultimate and true citizenship is in and of the kingdom of their Lord Jesus Christ. That makes them suspect to the world.
Why? Because the values of the kingdom of Jesus Christ are opposed to the values of this world which belongs to the kingdom of “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). Two remarks by the apostle Paul illustrates this conflict. In his first letter to Timothy, he instructs Christians to pray for government leaders, “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:2). In his second letter to Timothy he observes from his own experience that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). It goes with the territory – with a Christ-kingdom citizen living in an earthbound kingdom.
But with such territory also comes the power to live in such a predicament – for we live under and in the power of Jesus Christ. We face tribulation for and in Jesus; we patiently endure by and in Jesus; we live under the rule and in Jesus, that is, by his power given to us through the Holy Spirit. Indeed, we do not merely survive but we conquer, as Jesus will speak of and commend to each of the seven churches.
What does it mean to conquer? It means to conquer the temptation to compromise one’s faith – whether that be from persecution by the world or enticements by the world. It means to keep the faith.
An interesting window into this whole context of tribulation, kingdom, and patient enduring can be found in a letter written by a Roman governor to the emperor, asking guidance as to how to handle the ongoing problem of Christians. Listen in to Pliny the Younger as he addresses the Emperor Trajan in 112 A.D.
I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished….
Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image…and moreover cursed Christ--none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do--these I thought should be discharged….