We are not Alone in Our Suffering Part 1

Revelation 1:9-10a

9 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… .

Companionship from fellow Believers is Precious to Exiles

I remember a Christian lady in my church years back who had a very hard life. She was a faithful Christian, and came to church with her children regularly. They were a beautiful family. She had emotional issues, and her time with fellow believers helped more than we realized (until it was too late).

One day people noticed she had been absent for a while. The local Newspaper reported her death soon afterwards. The circumstances were unclear. Someone later said she committed suicide. However, subsequent reports stated the gun found at her side didn’t even have a firing pin. I don’t how she died. I know she was in an imposed exile, due to her hostile circumstances and a broken down vehicle. She suffered in her isolation from a lack of fellowship with other Christians.

Rev. 1:9-10a presents a powerful message to those in suffering

Most commentators assign Rev. 1:9-11 to minor significance as a “second introduction to the letter.” I do not see it as minor, and certainly not just a repeated introduction to the letters to follow.

I see Rev. 1:9-11 as relating this important truth to John’s churches and to us — we as Christians are not alone in our sufferings for the Gospel’s sake.

Patmos today WikiMedia Commons.JPG

Patmos today (WikiMedia Commons); hardly what John experienced.

Companions in Suffering are Necessary vs. 9a

vs. 9a I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus… .

“Partner” in Greek means “participant with others in some experience or activity.” (see Thayer below). The circumstances here are three—”the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus.”

Christians suffer in this world, but they are not alone. John identifies himself with his churches in similar circumstances. He gives them a glimpse into his companion in exile — Jesus Christ Himself. John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. He met with his Lord in the cave he inhabited.

Christians can expect the same companionship, both from the Lord and fellow believers, when they suffer today. We need not be isolated and alone. 

We should not Expect Ecstasy vs. 10

John first explains the nature of the “visions” he is receiving. We experience them by reading the Revelation he wrote. We can be “in the Spirit” reading God’s Word and praying. (Click on the link to Praying in the Spirit if you desire more information).

george whitefieldGeorge Whitefield (pictured left) read through Matthew Henry’s 6 Volume Commentary on the Bible four times throughout his life.  The last two times he read it through on his knees.

Arnold Dallimore in his biography of Whitefield writes, “We can visualize him at five in the morning in his room over Harris’s bookstore. He is on his knees with his Bible, his Greek New Testament, and a volume of Matthew Henry spread before him. With books open before his willing heart, Whitefield gazes back and forth from the English Bible to the Greek to Matthew Henry’s commentary, seeking to discern and digest Scripture’s divine truths.” (See Lawson below).

We obtain understanding of Revelation as we do likewise. It does not yield its treasures to a cursory reading. It becomes more and more precious to those who like John are in exile here.

All faithful Christians are in Exile on this earth. vs. 9b

vs. 9b [I, John,] was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 

I have already stated in an earlier blog post that Christians are dual-citizens: (1) of the nation in which they live; and (2) of heaven to which they are headed.

Philippians 3 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ… (emphasis mine; See ESV below).

“Citizenship” in Greek is used of a “corporate body of citizens resident in a foreign city.” Talk about resident aliens! We are all resident aliens to this world and are looking forward to reaching our heavenly home. (see Thayer below).

We all Experience Exile Differently

crypt under the cave of the apocalypse

Recently discovered crypt under the Cave of the Apocalypse

I have been to Patmos. We came to the Island after touring Ephesus, 37 miles to the northwest. We disembarked from our lovely cruise ship at the dock. John did not have such a comfortable journey, arrival, or stay.

According to Pliny and Tacitus, the Romans often sent their prisoners to islands. Tacitus mentions three islands in the Sporades by name: Donusa, Gyarus, and Amorgus. That Patmos was not listed indicates that it was not a primary place for imprisonment at this time. (see Patmos below). Even if the Island was not used as a penal colony, it still must have been a lonely place in the first century. No cruise ship docked there then.

John was physically exiled.

Rome had many ways of “exiling trouble makers. Relegation (relegatio) was the mildest form of banishment by which an undesirable person was removed from Rome or from a Roman province by magisterial decree for a specified amount of time or for life [of the Emperor]. (see

The Roman Governor of Asia Minor simply removed John from the churches of Asia Minor by sending him to Patmos. John was probably told to be on the next boat for Patmos or else. The leaving was forced and unpleasant; the spiritual retreat there was a pleasure!

We can make a spiritual retreat out of our exile, like John did, by finding Jesus as our one true companion!

cave_of_the_apocalypse

Entrance to the Cave of the Apocalypse (WikiMedia Commons)

More next time on God’s Exiled children!

Notes

ESV. Accessed January 2019 from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation+1&version=ESV

Fee, Gordon D. Revelation (New Covenant Commentary Series). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Lawson, Steven. (2014). “The Preeminence of Scripture in George Whitefield’s Life.” Accessed January 17, 2019 from https://www.ligonier.org/blog/preeminence-scripture-george-whitefields-life/ 

Meyer, Jason. (2018). “How to Pray in the Holy Spirit.” Blog post. Accessed January 17, 2019 from https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-pray-in-the-holy-spirit

Ovid and the Censured Voice. (2019). “History of Roman Exile.” Accessed January 17, 2019 from http://web.colby.edu/ovid-censorship/exile/history-of-roman-exile/

Patmos. (n.d.) Accessed January 19, 2019 from https://www.bibleplaces.com/patmos/

Thayer. (2011). Thayer’s Expanded Greek Definition, Electronic Database. Biblesoft, Inc. Accessed January 18, 2019 from https://www.studylight.org/lexicons/greek.html

Witherington, Ben. (2003). New Cambridge Bible Commentary on Revelation. Cambridge University Press

© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

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