I came to Revelation last week as I was working my way through the New Testament portion of my quiet time. I’ve studied through Revelation multiple times, but not since Sarah left. Initially, when I realized Revelation was next, I hesitantly flipped back to Matthew to start my New Testament reading over again. But as I stared at the title page of Matthew I felt unsettled and a strong prompting to go back to Revelation to complete my journey through the New Testament instead. I flipped back to Revelation and prayerfully began reading.
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place…. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” Revelation 1:1a, 3 [ESV]
I’m so thankful I heeded the prompting to turn back and immerse myself in the truths of Revelation. Just as verse 3 promises, I’ve already been so very blessed and encouraged meditating on the many rich truths of chapter one alone over the past week and a half.
In my previous readings I’m certain I failed to appreciate the richness of verse 9. Rereading it now, though, with the lingering weight of sorrow in Sarah’s absence, and the acute awareness of the brokenness and fallenness of this world that her departure has left, I was captivated by the significance of the verse.
In our prosperity gospel laden culture we are regularly bombarded with the message, implied and overtly spoken, that this life will be one of ease and blessing if we choose to follow Christ. In the midst of suffering and sorrow it is tremendously encouraging each and every time scripture confirms that message as a lie. Such is the case with Revelation 1:9. John Wesley noted the significance this verse and the book of Revelation as a whole holds for suffering saints when he wrote of it, “It was given to a banished man; and men in affliction understand and relish it most.”
“I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” Revelation 1:9 [NASB]
John, in this verse, confirms that we who are servants of Jesus Christ are fellow partakers in three specific aspects.
- We are fellow partakers in tribulation in Jesus Christ.
- We are fellow partakers in the kingdom in Jesus Christ.
- We are fellow partakers in the perseverance that is in Jesus Christ.
Fellow Partakers in Tribulation
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 [NASB]
God is so gracious to repeatedly warn and encourage us throughout His Word that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). Indeed this was true for John, who goes on to say in verse 9 that he “was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” Following Christ did not lead John to health, wealth and prosperity, it led him to tribulation. John’s obedience and service to Christ in proclaiming the Word of God led him to the desolate prison island of Patmos. And his words to us in verse 9 are in agreement with the rest of scripture that indicates we, too, will be partakers in tribulation and suffering in Jesus Christ.
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12 [ESV]
In the prosperity gospel saturated church culture where it is regularly implied that tribulation and hardship are indicators we have failed to rightly follow Christ, the apostle John’s reminder is precious encouragement. Certainly sin and failure to follow Christ can and will eventually lead to hardship or punishment, but scripture is replete with examples of righteous saints, in addition to John, enduring tribulation, suffering and martyrdom in the midst of faithfully following Him. And so their examples along with God’s precious promises are written for us that we may have peace in the midst of our tribulation.
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39 [NASB]
Fellow Partakers in the Kingdom
“… To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood– and He has made us [to be] a kingdom, priests to His God and Father…” Revelation 1:5-6 [NASB]
We are fellow partakers in the kingdom in Jesus. Our partnership in the kingdom is present tense. The message given through John in verses 5-6 echoes the message given through Peter in 1 Peter 2:9-10, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Through the precious blood of Jesus Christ we are freed from the bondage of sin and death and united with Him, partakers in His kingdom.
“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14 [NASB]
“He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:12-13 [NASB]
His Word grants peace in the midst of tribulation by allowing us to confidently know that we are present partakers of His kingdom now through faith in Jesus Christ. Peter goes on to clarify in 1 Peter 2:11 that as partakers of this kingdom in Jesus we are now “sojourners and exiles” on earth. As sojourners and exiles our hope is not fixed on anything earthly, but is instead fixed completely on the grace to brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:13).
As partakers in His kingdom we have the sure and certain Hope of His imminent return when “The kingdom of the world shall become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15). And so we groan with longing as we expectantly watch for Him who is “coming with the clouds” (Rev. 1:7)
“For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this [house] we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven,” 2 Corinthians 5:1-2 [NASB]
Fellow Partakers in Perseverance
“For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he [already] sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” Romans 8:24-25 [NASB]
We who are servants of Jesus Christ are fellow partakers in perseverance, also translated patient endurance, in Jesus Christ. The knowledge that we are or will be partakers in tribulation in Him, and the Hope of the knowledge that we are partakers in the kingdom in Him work together to bring about our partaking of the perseverance that is also found in Him. This is the visible working out of the prayer of Colossians 1:9-11.
“…that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please [Him] in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience…” Colossians 1:9-11 [NASB]
God, through His Word, graciously grants us knowledge and understanding that cause us to desire to persevere in obedience to Him even in the midst of tribulation. What indescribable hope and joy is ours in knowing He Himself will graciously and compassionately strengthen us in our frailty with all power according to His glorious might specifically to enable us to patiently endure, steadfast and immovable.
Therefore, We “must not throw away our confidence, for [we] have need of endurance, so that when [we] have done the will of God, [we] may receive what was promised. ‘FOR YET IN A VERY LITTLE WHILE, HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY. BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM.’ But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.” Hebrews 10:36-39 [NASB]
“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:4-6 [NASB]
Come, Lord Jesus.
Artwork: Sarah Harmening