Summary: To encourage the church by showing Christ’s authority over, rule of, and participation in the hardships of life.
Sermon Objective: To encourage the church by showing Christ’s authority over, rule of, and participation in the hardships of life.
Special note: Pastor Ken used a soloist to sing “The Solid Rock” at various points throughout this sermon. The sermon then concluded with the congregation reading it.
I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet,
He spent the lion’s share of his life following the Risen Christ. As a young man he was one of the twelve which responded to Jesus’ “Follow me” (Matthew 4:18-22) and while Jesus was being crucified this young man was the one he asked to care for his mother (John 19:25-27).
Reliable church history sources tell us that later in life this aging apostle, John, left Jerusalem and settled in Ephesus, a (then) bustling city in (now) modern Turkey. It was from the safety and leisure in Ephesus that he probably wrote the Gospel that bears his name as well as the three epistles. It was here that he, along with a host of other well known Biblical personalities like the Apostle Paul, and Aquilla, and Priscilla (1 Cor. 19:16) spent time building a very strong and stable church. Chances are good that John served as the elder in the Ephesus church that met in Aquilla and Priscilla’s house and it was under John’s leadership that a building was probably erected that became the first Christian Church building.
But the marble streets and life of ease that Ephesus offered its citizens had a dark side. The Book of Acts speaks of the hostility that Paul encountered during his two years there and John’s timing … well it just couldn’t have been worse! You see John’s arrival in Ephesus came during the Flavian Dynasty; the latter third of the 1st century when Vespasian, and his sons Titus and Domitian, were the Caesars (Emperors) of the Roman empire.
Each of these men was worse than the first. Indeed, where Vespasian is concerned, the sins of the fathers were passed down to the third and fourth generations (Exodus 20:5). It was under the rule of Vespasian that his son Titus, then a general in the Roman army, was ordered to level Jerusalem and the Jew’s temple. Up until this time (around AD 70) the Jews (who believed in only one God) and the Jewish Christians who often worshipped in the synagogues were immune from paying homage to the Goddess Roma (the goddess of Rome) or acknowledging that the Caesar was divine.
But once Vespasian took a dislike to the Jews that all began to change and by the time his youngest son (Domitian) became Caesar – well – there were harsh consequences for refusing to acknowledge his divinity. He demanded to be referred to as “Lord and God” and to be worshiped in the temple once a year. “Caesar is Lord” was literally the pledge of allegiance of the day. By the time of John’s arrival in Ephesus there were massive engines of persecution and scorn and the Christ-followers had neither weapons nor votes. They also had little money and no prestige.
THE SUFFERING SAINT
I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom
and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus
And thus, we flash back to John in Ephesus; a city with a very public and zealous loyalty to Rome and the emperor in particular.
BUT JOHN KNEW JESUS. HE KNEW JESUS HISTORICALLY, PERSONALLY AND EXPERIENTIALLY. HE COULD NOT GIVE THE GLORY AND ALLEGIANCE THAT JESUS WAS WORTHY OF TO ANOTHER – NOT AT ANY COST. And so he becomes the first mentioned in the Book of the Revelation to encounter suffering. His place as pastor of the church, an apostle of Jesus, and now a model in times of suffering, gives unique insight and the authority to write to a people who were themselves on the verge of seeing all Hell break loose against them.
During the Flavian dynasty, life for Christians went from difficult to tyrannical.
Conditions in some parts of their empire were nightmarish. The extravagant beast-images of the Revelation do not exaggerate. The world was topsy-turvy. John not only observed this … he experienced it firsthand.
But poetry can often do what prose cannot and Becky is going to sing a song for us this morning that illustrates what John discovered and I speak of:
I … was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God