Revelation 1:9–11 introduces a new section of the Apocalypse, a vision of Jesus Christ in glory, dictating letters to John for the seven churches. The vision extends from 1:9 to 3:22. Before we look at Jesus, however, let us look at John, noting these things especially:
- Self-description: “your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus”
- Location: “the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus”
- Situation: “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day”
- Commission: “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches”
Several important truths about the Christian life are apparent in these words.
First, Christian life is lived with others. The church is a family in which all are brothers and sisters. It is a “close mutual relationship” (koinonia) in which each is a “partner” (synkoinonos) to all. No Christian is an orphan; none should be alone.
Second, Christian life is difficult. In general, “Life is hard,” as M. Scott Peck famously put it. But the Christian life is particularly hard. And we experience its hardness “in Jesus.”
For some modern believers, a suffering Christian is an oxymoron. According to them, a Christian by definition is healthy, wealthy, and safe. Disease, poverty, and setbacks in life demonstrate a lack of faith, not an abundance of it. The New Testament everywhere refutes this pernicious error. “Indeed,” Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:12, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” The word of God and the testimony of Jesus did not save John from imprisonment on Patmos; they put him there!
But third, Christian life is rewarding. Christians experience difficulty in the present, but they hope for “the kingdom” in the future. The kingdom of God is a main theme of the Bible. It describes both God’s right to exercise authority over us and the righteousness, peace, and joy that result when he does so.
Fourth, between the suffering and the reward, between the tribulation and the kingdom, Christian life demands patient endurance.
But it is not powerless endurance. John speaks of being “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” In the New Testament, the Spirit is the preeminent sign of the inauguration of God’s kingdom in “the last days” (Acts 2:14–21). And “the Lord’s Day”—that is, Sunday—is so named because Jesus Christ rose from the dead on that day. We await a future resurrection, but even now we experience divine power: “I have been crucified with Christ,” Paul writes. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:19–20). Jesus Christ lives within us. The Holy Spirit is poured out upon us. These twin realities make our endurance of tribulation possible.
Finally, then, Christian life is evangelistic. Jesus Christ commanded John, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches.” Christians are not the only people who suffer the world’s difficulties. But we are the people who know the joyous good news of God’s coming kingdom. Even now, we experience its power. We must share this joyous gospel with others.