The Christian Life (Revelation 1:9–11)

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.


Life Is Difficult (Ecclesiastes 7:7–14)

“Life is difficult,” as M. Scott Peck so memorably wrote in The Road Less Traveled. How, then, does the wise person deal with it? How does he live with life’s difficulties? Ecclesiastes 7:7–14 offers sage advice in answer to those questions.[1]

First, realize that life’s difficulties present temptations to shortcuts, which should be avoided. “Surely oppression drives the wise into madness, and a bribe corrupts the heart.” The oppression spoken of here is not what the wise man does but what is done to him. (A truly wise person does not oppress his fellows.) Oppression pushes him to the breaking point, and in order to escape, he offers a bribe to his oppressor. But a bribe corrupts the hearts of both giver and receiver by providing a financial incentive to continue the extortion.

Second, life’s difficulties call for patience. Why? “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning….” We do not know what good things in us God is accomplishing through the difficult things he allows to happen to us. The only way to discover them is to wait until they are over. In hindsight, we will see them perfectly.

Third, anger is foolish. “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry….” When facing life’s difficulties, some people blow up. They thrash and rage about; they “do not go gentle into that good night” (to borrow a phrase from Dylan Thomas). But frustrated anger is not a character quality God wants to develop in us. Anger emotionally shorts out our wisdom fuse, and without wisdom, our life has no real power.

Fourth, then, wisdom is a boon in troubled times. When we go through difficulties, we often wax nostalgic about “the good old days.” Such nostalgia is an escape from present-responsibilities, however; it reflects an inability to live in and deal with the circumstances of the moment. God does not call us to live in the past but in the present, and in the present, a life is wisdom is as good as—or better than—a life with lots of money.

Finally, God wants to accept that all things—good and bad—come from his hand for our benefit. “God has made the one as well as the other….” Romans 8:28 reminds us: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” This is a hard teaching. Paul does not say that everything that happens to us is good, but rather that God can make something good of everything that happens to us—if we give him enough time. God uses the best of times (prosperity) for our ultimate good, as well as the worst of times (adversity).

So, do not be afraid of difficult times, and do not lose your head. Patience and wisdom will get you safely through them.


[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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